David Ford: “as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

Having met with various interested parties, and despite the advice from Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has rejected calls to free former Provisional IRA member Brendan Lillis on compassionate grounds.  From the BBC report Mr Ford said he had taken “an active interest” in the case and had sought additional independent medical advice. However, he said while it was within his power to free Mr Lillis, he had been advised that there were not sufficient grounds for … Read more

McGuinness: “I trust that David Ford will take the right decision…”

Having interfered in an ongoing police investigation last week, this week the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA, doubles up by giving the NI Justice Minster, David Ford, some legal advice.  From the BBC report “There can be no doubt that Brendan Lillis is seriously ill and does not represent a threat to anyone,” Mr McGuinness said. “The decision of the British Secretary of State Owen Paterson to revoke the licence of Brendan Lillis is … Read more

Life Sentence Review Commission deny Brendan Lillis release

There’s an ongoing campaign for the release of former Provisional IRA member, Brendan Lillis, on compassionate grounds.  But the BBC report that the Life Sentence Review Commission have just confirmed the Prison Service’s view that there were not sufficient grounds to justify his release.  From the BBC report Republican prisoner Brendan Lillis will not be released on compassionate grounds, the Life Sentence Review Commission has decided. Mr Lillis, who suffers from a severe arthritic condition, was sentenced to life in 1977 on explosives … Read more

Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “It’s a farce.”

More on the ongoing legal aid fees dispute.  UTV reports that just 18 out of 500 law firms in Northern Ireland have said they are willing to work under the disputed new pay rates. A Department of Justice spokesman said: “Copies of the list of firms willing to undertake criminal legal aid work is available to all defendants seeking legal representation from court offices. “Copies of the list have also been provided to the Prison Service for clients on remand without … Read more

“nor does it sit comfortably with the transparency expectations of a modern society”

As the BBC reports, in response to a written question from TUV leader, Jim Allister, MLA, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has revealed that, in the last 4 years, there have been 4 ‘super-injunctions’ granted in Northern Ireland – that is, court orders made “prohibiting publicity on the granting of injunctive relief”.  From the BBC report The North Antrim MLA said he hoped the information “may stimulate some necessary debate” on the issue. “The mystery and secrecy surrounding injunctive relief … Read more

Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “necessary to go outside Northern Ireland to bring in other lawyers”?

As the BBC reports, Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Alliance Party leader, David Ford, has detailed the number of cases where solictors have come “off record” to date in the dispute over legal aid fees [134 between 13 April and 27 May].  Although the Minister adds that It is not the court practice to record the reason given by a solicitor for coming off record so it is not possible to state categorically that all of these cases represent the outcome of a … Read more

“the First Minister, deputy First Minister, Attorney General and I have therefore agreed…”

The Northern Ireland Attorney General, John Larkin, has been complaining about his lack of powers of supervision over the Public Prosecution Service since he was appointed in May 2010.  It was, he said at the time, “something that should be urgently looked at”. The NI Justice Minister, David Ford, responded on 7 June 2010 that he intended “to start discussions with the First Minister and deputy First Minister on whether the relationship the law sets down between the new Attorney General and … Read more

Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “we cannot guarantee that they receive a fair trial”

Over 140 defendants in criminal cases are now reported to be without legal representation in the ongoing legal aid fees dispute.  From the BBC report Solicitors have refused to take on more than three quarters of criminal legal aid cases due to start in NI during the past six weeks. More than 140 defendants have been left without legal representation because of the protest over lower legal fees. “We don’t want to be on strike. We don’t want to be withdrawing … Read more

Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “the Law Society takes the view that this matter should receive early and urgent priority”

As the BBC report, the President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, Brian Speers, has called on the NI Justice Minister to make the resolution of the legal aid fees dispute  “the day one priority for the minister when the assembly is reconvened.”  The report also notes The Northern Ireland Court Service confirmed that 36 solicitors’ firms in Northern Ireland have stopped work on 60 cases in the past three weeks. And from the UTV report Mr Speers added: “The Minister needs … Read more

Criminal Justice Inspection NI to review Police Ombudsman’s independence

The Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has already commissioned former civil servant Tony McCusker to examine the allegations made against Department of Justice civil servants by Sam Pollock when he resigned as Chief Executive at the NI Police Ombudsman. And, by the end of last week, the Police Ombudsman, Al Hutchison, had asked the Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland to conduct a review of the operational independence of the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland from the PSNI. From … Read more

Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “The reality is this is happening across the north”

The dispute between the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, and solicitors over cuts to legal aid fees in Crown Court Proceedings seems to be intensifying. The Belfast Telegraph reports Pearse MacDermott, from the [Solicitors Criminal Bar Association (SCBA)], said: “Recent action has been taken as it is felt that the rates of remuneration introduced will jeopardise access to justice, particularly in more complicated and serious criminal cases.” Cases can spend months being heard in magistrates’ courts before they are passed to … Read more

NI Justice Minister names independent reviewer

As the BBC reports, Northern Ireland Justice Minister, Alliance Party leader David Ford, has announced that former civil servant, Tony McCusker, will conduct the independent review into allegations made against Department of Justice civil servants by Sam Pollock when he resigned as Chief Executive at the NI Police Ombudsman. Full terms of reference of review here [pdf file]. From the notes to the Minsterial statement Tony McCusker retired from the Northern Ireland Civil Service on 30 August 2005 and since then has undertaken … Read more

“The basis of the action is that solictors will not be appearing in the Crown Court…”

Earlier this week the BBC reported On Wednesday, defence solicitors signalled they will not be there to represent clients facing charges up to murder when they pass to the crown court. With barristers depending on these lawyers for their instructions, it means any legal representation is highly unlikely unless a solution is reached. And quoted a statement from the Bar Council In a statement, the Bar Council said: “The Bar acknowledges the well founded concerns of solicitors that these rules … Read more

“The [Justice] department dissolves on 1 May 2012 unless…”

As BBC NI political editor Mark Devenport reminds us, one of the oddities of our current ‘indigenous’ arrangements is that we can be fairly sure of one outcome of this election for the Alliance Party. As long as at least one member of that party is returned to the NI Assembly it’s virtually guaranteed that they – most likely David Ford – will be the next NI Justice Minister. As Mark Devenport points out. Yesterday, on Inside Politics, I presented the first … Read more

Truffles of power cause Ford indigestion

David Ford was on television last night denouncing the third mistaken prisoner release. Last month two people were released mistakenly. After the first mistaken release Ford ordered an enquiry. After the second release UUP leader Tom Elliott told Mr Ford: “Would the minister accept that in other places senior civil servants and indeed ministers have had to resign for much less?” Now there has been a third mistaken release Lord Morrow the chairman of the justice committee at Stormont has … Read more

Is it good enough for David Ford only to hold the ring?

The dissident threat and the Newtownabbey riots prompts me to ask: what impact is David Ford making as Minister of Justice? The conclusion would seem to be a modest one, compared to the massive controversy over devolving the justice and policing functions. I can’t help feeling that big issues are being ducked: viz: Are the PSNI in shape to deal with the dissidents, UVF left-overs and the legacies of paramilitarism generally? Is an agreement in sight for dealing with the … Read more

New NI Attorney General Sworn In

As the BBC notes, Northern Ireland’s new Attorney General John Larkin was sworn in at the Royal Courts of Justice in Belfast today. After taking the oath, Mr Larkin pledged his full backing for the independence of barristers. “I intend to support our independent bar to the best of my ability,” he said. “What I do want to do here is to declare my firm view that an independent bar is a strong and protective force in and for the … Read more