“he could vouch for them as honest and law-abiding citizens..”

“Whatever happened to..”, indeed.. Funding wasn’t mentioned in the reports on the unaccredited Belfast community-based Restorative Justice scheme but, via Newshound, we have a report on an attempt to secure funding for the Barcroft CRJ scheme from Newry and Mourne Council, as proposed by Sinn Féin councillor Brendan Curran – despite the scheme not signing up to the NIO protocols. The Newry Democrat report ends by noting that

It was then decided that money will be ring-fenced for Barcroft CRJ from council funds until the group signs up to the protocols.

The condition should, surely, be “until the group receives full accreditation”? But a second SF councillor adds the quote of the day

However SDLP councillor Gary Stokes expressed his concerns that the group had not yet signed up to protocols required by the Northern Ireland Office for CRJ funding. Sinn Fein’s Pat McGinn said that knowing the members of the group personally he could vouch for them as honest and law-abiding citizens and accused the SDLP of demonising the CRJ.

It’s not the first time the issue has come up at Newry and Mourne Council, as the minutes of the Council’s monthly meeting on 5 June 2006 show [pdf file]

M/171/2006 – SPECIAL STAFF AND POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING TO CONSIDER AND ASSESS VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTION APPLICATIONS UNDER THE ‘N’ CATEGORY (REF: M/4/2)

Read: Report of Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee, to which all Councillors were invited, to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006 / 2007 held on Friday 19 May 2006. (Copy circulated)

Councillor Hearty proposed and Councillor McDonald seconded that the above Report be approved and the recommendation contained therein, i.e. that:-
“Funding for applications which scored 22 points or more, and which requested £5,000 plus, would be capped at £5,000 and that applications requesting less that £5,000 and scoring over 22 points would receive 75% of the amount requested i.e. at a total of £147,175”

As an amendment to Councillor Hearty’s proposal, Councillor Carr proposed and Councillor Kennedy seconded the Report of the Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee held on Friday 19 May 2006 to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006/2007 be approved subject to the following amendment: –

“Voluntary Contribution Applications from Greater Barcroft Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1346) and the Gap of the North Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1345) be taken out of the Voluntary Contribution Applications for 2006/2007 and the groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Northern Ireland Office for funding.

The Voluntary Contribution Applications from Dromintee Community Safety Group (ref 1284), Meigh Safety Awareness Association (ref 1310), Jonesborough Community Safety Group (ref 1347) and Forkhill Community Group (ref 1348) be taken out of the Voluntary Contributions Applications for 2006/2007 and the Groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Community Safety Unit, Belfast for funding”

Councillor Carr said he was concerned that people were encouraged by Community Safety Groups to ring a mobile telephone number as opposed to contacting the PSNI.

Councillor Kennedy said he believed that the 6 groups needed to be removed from the Voluntary Contributions list, as none of those groups were actively working with the PSNI and other lawful agencies engaged in this work.

Mr McCall reminded Members of the legal advice that had been given to the Council during 2005 in relation to grant application from CRJ Groups.

He advised that any decisions taken must be in line and in accordance with these legal advices.

He advised Members that copies of the legal advices were available for them at tonight’s Meeting.

There followed a lengthy discussion on the procedures involved in compiling the Voluntary Contribution Applications list from the initial advertising stages to the scoring and assessing stages.

Councillor Reilly pointed out that when Councillor Hearty had made his proposal at the Special Staff and Policy Meeting held on Friday 19 May 2006, he had agreed in principle but would adhere to the legal advice previously given to the Council in relation to this matter.

Councillor Mussen said he believed the scoring system for Voluntary Contribution Applications should be revisited before next year. He said the Community Safety Groups may be viewed as complimentary rather than replacing policing. He said community pressure on those who did commit anti-social behaviour must be mindful of Human Rights and he did not in any way support vigilante groups.

Councillor Connolly asked that it be recorded that he had at no time attempted to block any Group in the Mournes area from receiving Council funding.

Councillor Carr said he wished it recorded that he did not discriminate against groups from the South Armagh area.

The amendment proposed by Councillor Carr and seconded by Councillor Kennedy “that the Report of the Special Meeting of the Staff and Policy Committee held on Friday 19 May 2006 to consider and assess Voluntary Contribution Applications under the ‘N’ Category for 2006/2007 be approved subject to the following amendment: –

Voluntary Contribution Applications from greater Barcroft Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1346) and the Gap of the North Community Restorative Justice Group (ref 1345) be taken out of the Voluntary Contribution Applications for 2006/2007 and the groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Northern Ireland Office for funding.

The Voluntary Contribution Applications from Dromintee Community Safety Group (ref 1284), Meigh Safety Awareness Association (ref 1310), Jonesborough Community Safety Group (ref 1347) and Forkhill Community Group (ref 1348) be taken out of the Voluntary Contributions Applications for 2006/2007 and the Groups be advised and encouraged to apply to the Community Safety Unit, Belfast for funding” was put to a recorded vote and the voting was as follows: (copy attached)

FOR: 14
AGAINST: 12
ABSTENTIONS: 3

The amendment was declared carried.
The amendment became the Substantive Motion and was put to a vote and voting was as follows:-

FOR: 14
AGAINST: 12
ABSTENTIONS: 1

The Motion was declared carried.

Councillor Curran said he wished it recorded that he was against the Motion, as the only groups that were ever excluded from the Voluntary Contributions List were the Restorative Justice Groups.

Councillor Reilly said he wished it recorded that his vote was based on legal advice received last year.

It was further agreed that Mr R Dowey, Director of Finance prepare a Report detailing the funding which had not now been taken up under the ‘N’ Section and that this Report be tabled for consideration at the Finance Committee Meeting to be held on Thursday 15 June 2006, to which all Members were to be invited to attend for discussion on this item and to agree allocation of this money.

On the proposal of Councillor Kennedy seconded by Councillor Oliver it was agreed to convene a Fews Area Councillors Meeting with Tullyvallen Football Club and appropriate Council Official to discuss their Voluntary Contribution Application.

And the issue reappears in the minutes of the Annual General Meeting on 19th June 2006 [pdf file]

D.D/209/2006 – TO SEEK LEGAL ADVICE RE ‘N’ SECTION VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS (REF: M/4/2)

Read: Minute of Finance Sub Committee Meeting held on Thursday 15 June 2006 in respect of ‘N’ Section Voluntary Contributions was which referred to the District Development Committee Meeting.

The recommendations were as follows: –

Councillor Kennedy proposed the existing issue regarding ‘N’ Category Voluntary Contributions 2006.2007, including correspondence from Mr E Morgan, Community Restorative Justice and correspondence from Mr Brain Finnegan, Slieve Gullion Community Safety Forum be referred to the Council’s Solicitor for up-to-date legal advices on if and how the Council may proceed.

Councillor McArdle seconded the above proposal.

Councillor McDonald proposed that no letters of offer be sent regarding Applications amounting to £126,908, until such times as the Council had received legal advice on sending letters of offer to these particular Applications.

Councillor Murphy seconded the above Proposal.

Councillor Carr proposed that the Council proceed to send out the letters of offer regarding the successful Applications amounting to £126,908.

Councillor McArdle seconded the above proposal.

A vote was taken on the first Proposal, and voting was as follows:
For: 8
Against: 6

The Proposal was declared carried, and it was therefore agreed that no letters of offer be sent regarding Applications amounting to £126,908, until such times as the Council had received legal advice on sending offer letters to these particular Applications.

It was further agreed that when seeking the above legal advices, the Council also ask for clarification as to whether or not it is legal to allocate funding to a group which meets the same criteria as the groups who were refused.

It was also agreed the above decisions be referred for consideration at the District Development Committee Meeting to be held on Monday 19 June 2006.

In reply to Councillor Stokes Mr McCall clarified that the Council had sought legal opinion over a year ago on this issue and he was not aware of any changes in the legislation at this point in time.

Councillor Reilly felt it would be prudent to seek up to date legal opinion as it seemed unfair not sent out the letters of offer to those successful applications.

Mr McCall said that as a different marking system had been used this year in respect of the ‘N’Category Voluntary Contributions it may be prudent to seek further legal opinion.

Councillor Stokes proposed and Councillor Reilly seconded that authority be granted to proceed to send letters of offer to those successful applications amounting to £126,908 at this time and that detailed legal opinion be sought in respect of the 6 No applications which are withheld detailed as follows:-

(1) 1284 Drumintee Community Safety Group
(2) 1310 Meigh Safety Awareness Association
(3) 1345 Gap Of The North CRJ
(4) 1346 Greater Barcroft CRJ
(5) 1347 Jonesborough Community Safety Group
(6) 1348 Forkhill Community Safety Group

It was agreed to seek legal opinion in this matter at the earliest opportunity with the legal opinion to be brought back to the Council at a Meeting with the Council’s
Solicitor being in attendance.

Authority be granted to the Council’s Solicitor to appoint Counsel if necessary.

Read: Letter dated the 19 June 2006 from Elliot Trainor Partnership Solicitors in respect of the applications made by the Gap Of The North CRJ, Drumintee Safety Group, Meigh Safety Awareness Association, Jonesborough Community Safety Group and Forkhill Community Safety Group inviting the Council to reconsider their decision to refuse to make a voluntary contribution to the above named groups.

It was agreed to refer correspondence dated the 19 June 2006 from Elliot Trainor Partnership Solicitors to Mr Rory McShane, Council’s Solicitor.

And, in the August 2006 Monthly Meeting minutes [pdf file]

FINANCIAL MATTERS
M/218/2006 – SPECIAL STAFF AND POLICY COMMITTEE MEETING – LEGAL ADVICE REGARDING VOLUNTARY CONTRIBUTIONS
(REF: F/3/75)_________________________________________

Read: Report of Staff and Policy Committee Meeting held on Tuesday 25 July 2006 re: legal advice from R McShane & Company Solicitors regarding voluntary contributions (copy circulated).

On the proposal of Councillor Feehan, seconded by Councillor W Burns, it was agreed to approve the above report and the recommendations contained therein.
Mr T McCall, Chief Executive, advised that he would be meeting with the Barrister on Tuesday 8 August 2006 in relation to voluntary contributions and would report back to the Council on the outcome of this meeting as soon as possible.

Following further discussion it was agreed that Mr McCall ask the Barrister if it would be in order for the Council to release all other applications on the voluntary contribution list which were not CRJ related as many groups throughout the area needed the money from the Council to cover the costs of events, many of which had already been held.

It was agreed that Mr McCall raise this matter with the Barrister and if an indication was given that all other voluntary contribution funding could be released, an urgent meeting be convened with the Group Leaders and Independent Councillors to discuss this matter.

I can’t find any reference to more recent discussion on CRJ’s in the Council until the Newry Democrat report already noted above.

, , , ,

  • URQUHART

    I would like to see proposals of where the money was going to be spent. For example, what sense would it make to fund two seperate organisations in Dromintee and Meigh?

    More jobs for the boys I suspect.

  • “The condition should, surely, be “until the group receives full accreditation”?”

    Pete, you might wonder how any paramilitary led CRJ group could receive accreditation.

    Perhaps this is another scandal that David Gordon should be sinking his teeth into …

  • Twinbrook

    and bakers anti-Republican crusade continues…

    baker have you a life!

  • May 2004 meeting of newry and Mourne District Council:

    http://www.newryandmourne.gov.uk/general_council/pdf/24%20May%2004%20CB.pdf

    “Councillor Curran said the Community Restorative Justice Groups were set up by good and dedicated people and he asked those Councillors who opposed funding to these groups to give their reasons why.

    Councillor Kennedy said there was a concern that Community Restorative Groups could potentially take the form of paramilitary policing within communities which he assumed everyone would wish to avoid such a situation arising.”

    Goodness and paramilitary ‘justice’ are strange bedfellows.

  • Prince Eoghan

    Another one of those infamous headlines…….

    Hopefully no one will die this time, not that any shame was noticed right enough. Brass necks rarely go red!

    Twinbrook

    What do you think?

    Restorative justice is used in areas where mainstream ‘policing and justice’ has proven ineffective. Parts of New Zealand, Australia and North America with aboriginal peoples. Considering the turmoil and conflict that ensued over the past near 40 years, why do some consider that this form of community justice so well……..bad?

  • perci

    Prince
    Some of these CRJ groups and community safety wouldn’t even put up posters or answer the phone on the quinn murder.
    What does that tell you?

  • Eoghan, restorative justice programs will often deal with young people and the likes of the paramilitary ‘nutting squad’ personnel should not be allowed within a beagle’s gowl of them.

  • perci

    Nevin,
    Prince gets really bored when you go into these matters in some detail; doesn’t fit the narrow agenda.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Although the failed protocol is the basis for the Criminal Justice Inspector’s reports, and even under these lax guidelines CRJI are struggling to appear suitable as state justice enforcers, there is one important aspect to note.

    Accreditation is quite simply at the discretion of the Secretary of State. Meeting the standards laid out in the protocol is not technically required.I would guess that all this choreography means that an accreditation announcement is due. It should be noted that this does not necessarily imply that even the failed protocol is being adhered to.

  • Pete Baker

    Damian

    With the proviso that accreditation would have to be preceded by a CJI report, following an application by the groups themselves, that would seem to be accurate.

    And with accreditation the apparent current legal advice – which prevents Council’s from granting rate-payers’ money to these groups – may change.

    Which, to address Twinbrook and Eoghan, is why this attempt to by-pass the accreditation process, and go against the Council’s legal advice, is worth noting.

  • “current legal advice – which prevents Council’s from granting rate-payers’ money to these groups”

    That is not the current legal advice and it was not N&M;’s legal advice last year either.

    You are speaking on a subject you know very little about.

  • Pete Baker

    Chris

    The quote was “apparent current legal advice”.

    I can only go by what’s in the public domain – and the decisions which follow.

    If the Council are currently going against their own legal advice I’d expect to see a challenge in the courts.

    If you have other additional information, then by all means add it to the discussion.

  • Section 115 and Section 108 of the Local Government Act both allow the council to fund groups like the ones mentioned above.

    Furthermore the council received that advise last year.

    “The Council’s decision to refuse voluntary contribution to the six groups is arguably unreasonable on the following basis.

    The Council decided in November 2005 to overhaul the voluntary contribution assessment procedure.

    A project assessment form was devised by Council officials which set out ten criteria against which applications for voluntary contribution could be scored.

    The project assessment form was approved by the Council on Monday 5th December 2005. At a special meeting of the staff and Policy Committee on Friday 19th May 2006 it was agreed to recommend to full Council that all applications scoring 22 points or more on the project assessment form should receive a voluntary contribution and that the applications should not be assessed individually by the Council.

    At the full Council meeting on Monday 5th June 2006 the Council decided to make voluntary contributions to all applications scoring 22 points or more with the exception of the six groups.

    The six groups were refused voluntary contribution after application by the Council of criteria which by either had already been considered during the scoring of the project assessment form or by the application of criteria which had not been applied to the
    successful applicants.

    There is no doubt that the applications of the six groups for voluntary contribution were treated differently by the Council than the successful applicants. The issue is whether the decision reached by the Council is so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it. Ultimately this question can only be answered by a Court.

    However there is a real and substantial risk that the Council’s decision to treat the applications of these six groups differently from the successful applicants may be judged to have been unreasonable.”

  • Pete Baker

    Chris

    You don’t specifically say if that advice was from the Council’s own legal advisors.

    I’m thinking, in particular about this paragraph from the August minutes

    Following further discussion it was agreed that Mr McCall ask the Barrister if it would be in order for the Council to release all other applications on the voluntary contribution list which were not CRJ related as many groups throughout the area needed the money from the Council to cover the costs of events, many of which had already been held.

    But if it was,

    “There is no doubt that the applications of the six groups for voluntary contribution were treated differently by the Council than the successful applicants. The issue is whether the decision reached by the Council is so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it. Ultimately this question can only be answered by a Court.”

    Well, I look forward to seeing someone take that court action then.

    Not sure how an application for public funds by a CRJ group without accreditation would be viewed by a court. But if they take their chance, we’ll find out.

  • “You don’t specifically say if that advice was from the Council’s own legal advisors.”

    It was.

  • Pete Baker

    Thanks for that confirmation, Chris.

    And as I’ve already said in relation to this quote from that advice

    “There is no doubt that the applications of the six groups for voluntary contribution were treated differently by the Council than the successful applicants. The issue is whether the decision reached by the Council is so unreasonable that no reasonable Council could have reached it. Ultimately this question can only be answered by a Court.”

    Well, I look forward to seeing someone take that court action then.

    Not sure how an application for public funds by a CRJ group without accreditation would be viewed by a court. But if they take their chance, we’ll find out.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Pete,

    Those two conditions have been met.

    In any case, the CJI’s statutory basis precludes it from real assessment, even to the abysmal (and as Nevin correctly asserted, arguably discriminatory) goverment standards.

    This is much more than jobs for the boys. This is the future of deprived areas being sabotaged for political expediency by their own leadership, on both sides. But to be quite honest, I don’t think the hoods are that scared anyway (UTH/FTRA?).

  • Pete Baker

    Damian

    What two conditions have been met?

  • Damian O’Loan
  • ‘Beware the dog that doesn’t bark’ is an old piece of wisdom. Should we read anything into Jeffrey Donaldson’s sustained silence on recent revelations in the realm of restorative justice?

  • Pete Baker

    Damian

    It’s worthwhile paying attention to the detail.

    From that press release

    A total of eight schemes (four in Belfast and four in Londonderry/Derry) were examined as part of the inspection.

    While, from the article linked in the original post

    However SDLP councillor Gary Stokes expressed his concerns that the group had not yet signed up to protocols required by the Northern Ireland Office for CRJ funding.

    I had noted that report at the time.

  • Damian O’Loan

    Not having seen the applications, I don’t know if others are covered under this inspection of eight. It seems not from your quote, but I simply don’t know. Could accreditation of this group be acheived without CJI examination? Yes would appear to be the answer.

    From the NI Alternatives report:

    “Although the five entities are constitutionally separate and will need to be accredited
    individually, as this report shows they operate as a family and it would make no sense to
    accredit the schemes in isolation from NIA.”

    “If accreditation were to be granted, therefore, it would be desirable that NIA and the
    schemes should be accredited as a family”

    “This was a quick initial inspection designed to provide an overview of their activities and an
    assessment of whether they met, or had the potential to meet, the standards that would be
    expected of an accredited scheme operating in accordance with the Protocol. It was not an
    evaluation of the work of the schemes. If accreditation is agreed, CJI will inspect them
    more fully in a year’s time to see how they have adjusted”

    So it seems possible that accreditation could be given for being under the CRJI banner, and without meeting the protocol standards.

    The difference with CRJI was that they wouldn’t cooperate with the police. Now they say they do, and that is sufficient because the CJI hasn’t the powers to test the claim.

    I imagine the forthcoming CJI report will toe the line. Otherwise, I imagine it won’t appear and accreditation, and funding, will be given. I don’t understand why rates are being called upon. I think the story here is that Newry and Mourne are in the fold.

  • Just spotted this 2004 speech by Kit Chivers:

    “One approach is to build on the Community Restorative Justice schemes which operate in some areas on both sides of the divide and bring them into a proper relationship with the criminal justice system. The Justice Oversight Commissioner, Lord Clyde, has recognised that the schemes have a potential for good, provided they are carefully supervised to ensure that they work in accordance with sound principles and have no links with paramilitary organisations, and the Independent Monitoring Commission has likewise given them a cautious endorsement. If the necessary conditions can be satisfied the Inspectorate will prepared to help by inspecting them, as the Criminal Justice Review envisaged, whenever the Secretary of State determines that the time is right.”

    Aren’t all of our restorative schemes paramilitary led?