It is perhaps a measure of the degree to which the ‘pan nationalist front’ has disintegrated can been seen in the pugnacious way the SDLP continues to fight its corner over proposed CRJ legislation: widely perceived to be a key precondition for Sinn Fein re-engaging with the local institutions. But Alex Attwood was dismissive of David Hanson’s description of his government’s latest proposals as ‘a gold standard’:
First, there is to be a complaints scheme run by the Probation Board. It will not have the necessary powers for a truly independent and rigorous complaints procedure. Without the ability to search premises, seize documents and compel witnesses to attend, a complaint may quickly run into the sand.
Second, the British Government says that there is a requirement for direct communication by a restorative scheme with the police. This is better than the original proposal to report to the police through a third party. But unless direct communication means and is seen to mean full cooperation and assistance with legitimate police investigations, direct communication could end up being warm words with no real product.
Third, the British Government says that he Criminal Justice Inspector (CJI) can inspect schemes. This does not add up to much. The CJI will not have the powers to inspect the 80-90% of the work of schemes which the schemes deem to be non criminal. The CGI does not have the right to investigate individual cases and in any case is already stretched inspecting twenty and more other justice organisations.
The real risk is that the British Government in the coming months will sign off on two alternate policing and justice regimes. One sees full acceptance of policing responsibility and restorative justice fully integrated into justice processes. The other sees the mere requirement to have a relationship with the police on the ground and restorative justice schemes governed by a foolhardy protocol. This is too big a risk. It damages policing and political stability. It is not the way to go.”