With a target date pencilled in, pending delivery, for the devolution of policing and justice powers Newton Emerson has been thinking about what those powers will be, or rather what they won’t be. He’s looked at the best available guide from the NIO in February 2006, which formed the basis of discussions during the summer, and spots an area of interest, the Public Prosecution Service, where operational decisions continue to be the subject of debate. [added link]From the invaluable Newshound
The laughably obvious list of PPS political manipulation goes on and on. So how does the government intend to reform this rotten system? The discussion paper proposes that Stormont’s first minister and deputy first minister should appoint a new attorney general for Northern Ireland, who will in turn appoint the director of the PPS. But the paper adds: “The attorney general NI will have no power of direction or superintendence over the PPS, whether in individual cases or on matters of policy.”
That power won’t go to Stormont either.
The next paragraph says: “The director will not be required to answer to the assembly except in relation to finance and administration.” There is no PPS oversight role whatsoever for the much-debated policing and justice minister. The government claims that this is all essential to retain “the independence and impartiality of the prosecution system”. However, that system is now so discredited that proactive, rather than passive, measures on accountability are clearly required. If our new attorney general doesn’t control the PPS and our elected politicians can only query the director’s budget, then it is still safe to assume that a phone can be lifted in London and a case can be dropped in Belfast as ongoing appeasement requires.
Or is that what Sinn Féin and the DUP want as well?