The timing of devolving policing and justice powers got a mention in that wide-ranging discussion noted here – with Reg Empey suggesting the Legislative Assembly provide evidence of competency on the powers they have before requesting more – and later in the Politics Show Jim Fitzpatrick, referencing the “timely” NIO poll, introduced Vincent Kearney’s report on the issue. Among the points made was the absence of detailed discussions on what powers would actually be devolved, the necessary preparations required before taking on a Ministry for Justice and, in particular, Scotland’s Lord Advocate gets several mentions. And, since Alex Maskey is mentioning those “commitments” again, here’s another timely reminder of those commitments, deadlines and target dates.
Given the repeated references to Scotland, and the Lord Advocate’s role there, it’s worth pointing out that there are set limits to the allowable questioning of the Lord Advocate by MSPs.
7. If a Law Officer is not an MSP s/he is empowered to participate in the proceedings of the Parliament but may not vote (SA s.27). S/he can therefore be questioned by MSPs about the exercise of his or her functions, although s/he may not be required to answer questions or produce documents relating to the operation of the system of criminal prosecution in any particular case if s/he considers that it might prejudice criminal proceedings or would otherwise be contrary to the public interest (SA s.27(3)). Under the Parliament’s Standing Orders, written questions about the operation of the systems of criminal prosecution and investigation of deaths are answerable only by the Law Officers, as are oral questions on those matters in all but exceptional circumstances (Rules 13.5.1, 13.7.1 and 13.8.3).