COMMITTEE FOR JUSTICE
MINUTES OF PROCEEDINGS
THURSDAY, 03 MARCH 2011
SENATE CHAMBER, PARLIAMENT BUILDINGS
Lord Morrow MLA (Chairman)
Mr Raymond McCartney MLA (Deputy Chairman)
Lord Browne MLA
Lord Empey MLA
Mr Paul Givan MLA
Mr Alban Maginness MLA
Mr Conall McDevitt MLA
Mr David McNarry MLA
Ms Carál Ní Chuilín MLA
Mrs Christine Darrah (Assembly Clerk)
Mrs Roisin Donnelly (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Vincent Gribbin (Assistant Assembly Clerk)
Mr Joe Westland (Clerical Supervisor)
Mr Kevin Marks (Clerical Officer)
The meeting commenced at 2.10 p.m. in public session.
2. Draft minutes of the meeting held on 24 February 2011
The Committee approved the draft minutes of the meeting held on 24 February 2011.
3. Matters Arising
i. The Committee noted a revised Forward Work Programme in which oral briefings had been rescheduled at the request of the Committee.
The Committee also noted that a report on the progress of the Review of Access to Justice would be available shortly and an oral briefing on this would be included in the new Justice Committee work programme.
ii. The Committee considered further legal advice from the Assembly Legal Advisor regarding the proposed sex offender notification clause for the Justice Bill.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to refer an issue raised in the advice regarding Standing Orders to the Committee on Procedures for consideration.
2.20 p.m. Mr Givan joined the meeting.
4. Briefing by Dame Anne Owers on the Prison Review Team Interim Report
Dame Anne Owers, Chairperson of the Prison Review Team and Review Team Members Mr Paul Leighton, Ms Clodagh McGrory and Mr Phil Wheatley joined the meeting at 2.20pm
Dame Anne briefly outlined the key findings and recommendations of its interim Report on the Review of the Northern Ireland Prison Service.
3.05 p.m. Mr McNarry joined the meeting.
3.13 p.m. Mr Givan left the meeting.
A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the key priorities for the reform programme; the facilities for women and young offenders; the role of victims in the development of the report; the need for a clear vision and purpose for the prison system and whether a public debate is required; the need for improved leadership and management visibility; communication failings and action required; how the change programme will be managed and progressed; the ongoing security situation; the lack of capacity to deal with mental health issues both inside prison and in the community; and the proposed “New Deal” for staff.
The Chairman thanked Dame Anne and her team for the briefing and they left the meeting.
The session was recorded by Hansard.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister of Justice seeking clarification regarding what actions, if any, will be taken before the final report is available.
3.51 p.m. Mr McNarry left the meeting.
5. Briefing by the Department of Justice on the assignment of two Counsel – EQIA and proposals
Robert Crawford, Head of Public Legal Services Division and John Halliday, Criminal Legal Aid Policy Advisor, Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service joined the meeting at 3.54 p.m.
The Chairman advised the Committee that a request had been received from the Bar Council for an opportunity to address the Committee on the proposals for the assignment of two counsel in the Crown Court. Given the limited time available before the end of the mandate and the heavy work programme still to be completed it was not possible to schedule an oral briefing session but Members may wish to explore the issues raised in the Bar Council’s written submission during the evidence session with departmental officials.
The officials briefed the Committee on the results of the Equality Impact Assessment and the proposals for changes to the assignment of two counsel in the Crown Court. A question and answer session followed covering issues such as the objective of the proposals; the estimated savings; the process of certification; the need to maintain adequate representation for people facing serious offences; the difference between the current test and the new test; the possibility of increasing delays in the system; and the current figures for the use of 2 counsel.
The Chairman thanked the officials for the briefing and they left the meeting.
The session was recorded by Hansard.
Agreed: The Committee agreed with the Department of Justice proposal to put on the face of the Bill that the Judge in a case has the ability to award 2 counsel here he feels it would contravene the Human Rights Act not to have 2 Counsel.
4.59 p.m. Mr Maginness left the meeting.
6. Response from the Minister of Justice to the Committee Submission on the Draft Budget 2011-15
The Committee considered a response from the Minister of Justice to the issues raised by the Committee in its response to the Department of Justice draft budget 2011-2015.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Minister, seeking clarification and further information regarding the level of the reductions in running costs of the Police Rehabilitation and Retraining Trust (PRRT).
7. Written briefing paper on the Strategic Framework for the Reducing Offending Strategy
The Committee considered a written briefing paper from the Department of Justiceon the proposedStrategic Framework upon which the Reducing Offending Strategy will be based.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to write to the Department of Justice advising that, given the importance of this strategy, detailed consideration needs to be given to the proposed framework. This is not possible at this late stage and therefore it should be referred to the Justice Committee early in the new mandate for consideration.
5.05 p.m. Mr McNarry rejoined the meeting.
5.07 p.m. Mr McCartney left the meeting.
8. SL1 – Proposals to amend the Insolvency Rules (Northern Ireland) 1991
The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Enterprise, Trade and Investment regarding a Department of Justice proposal to amend the Insolvency Rules (Northern Ireland) 1991 to make provision in respect of debt relief orders, debt relief restrictions orders and debt relief restrictions undertaking under the Debt Relief (Northern Ireland) Act 2010.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that it was content with the proposed
9. Chairman’s Business
The Chairman reminded the Committee of a visit to the Historical Enquiries Team which was scheduled to take place on Thursday 10 March in the morning and asked Members to advise the clerk if they wished to attend.
The Chairman advised the Committee that a letter had just arrived during the meeting from the Minister of Justice regarding amendments he had tabled for the further Consideration Stage of the Justice Bill.
Agreed: The Committee agreed that the late receipt of the correspondence prevented any consideration of the matter taking place and the Chairman should indicate this during the debate.
5.10 p.m. Mr Givan rejoined the meeting.
i. The Committee noted correspondence of 24 February from the Department of Justice providing further information requested on the Corporate Manslaughter Act and commencement of custody provisions.
The Committee noted correspondence of 28 February from the Department of Justice providing clarification regarding the Draft Family Proceedings (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and the Magistrates’ Courts (Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (Amendment) Rules (Northern Ireland) 2011 and parental orders.
ii. The Committee considered correspondence from an individual regarding a book he had written and his complaint to the Minister of Justice about various Justice Agencies.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to forward the correspondence to the Minister of Justice for his comments.
iii. The Committee considered correspondence from the Committee for Finance and Personnel regarding consultations undertaken by individual departments on the draft Budget 2011-15.
Agreed: The Committee agreed to request information on what account the Department of Justice had taken of issues raised during its consultation exercise on its draft budget proposals.
11. Any Other Business
12. Date and time of next meeting
The next meeting will be held on Thursday 10 March 2011 at 2.00 p.m. in the Senate Chamber, Parliament Buildings.
5.16 p.m. The meeting was adjourned.
Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley MLA
Chairman, Committee for Justice
10 March 2011
28 February 11 / Menu