“While we already enjoy excellent working relationships..”

The Irish Times picks up a PA report on the statement by the NIO on the continuation of co-operation on policing and justice matters between the UK and Republic of Ireland governments in the run-up to, and beyond, the May target date – following the recommendations of the Assembly and Executive Review Committee. Schengen, anyone? Anyone?From the NIO statement

Notes to Editors

1.The Criminal Justice Review (2000) made several recommendations relating to co-operative working between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, including the establishment of a group of criminal justice policymakers from the two jurisdictions (rec.278).

2.In the Updated Implementation Plan (2003), the two Governments set out their intention to reach an Inter-governmental Agreement on co-operation in criminal justice matters within the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC). This Agreement was signed on 26 July 2005.

3.The Agreement establishes a regular meeting of the two responsible Ministers, reporting to the BIIGC, at which they:

?discuss criminal justice matters of mutual interest or concern in the two jurisdictions.

?consider the scope for, and develop plans to achieve, more effective co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters between the two jurisdictions.

?oversee and give direction to the work of the Working Group.

?approve and periodically review progress against work programmes on criminal justice co-operation.

4.The Agreement also establishes a Working Group of officials from the NIO and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR). Members support the Ministerial Meetings, take forward work on progressing the relevant recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review, and identify other areas in which co-operation on criminal justice matters could be enhanced or initiated, as appropriate. The Working Group prepares, seeks the agreement of the Ministers to, and implements work programmes on co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters.

5.Members of the group oversee the separate implementation within each jurisdiction of initiatives flowing from the work programme, within the context of the Belfast Agreement. The group and its work programme are wholly within the Strand Three arrangements set out in the Belfast Agreement.

6.Those areas addressed by the Agreement, include work on liaison between forensic units, monitoring registered sex offenders, public protection, youth justice, and improving arrangements for victim support.

7.The Agreement relates to criminal justice matters prior to devolution. The Assembly and Executive Review Committee recommended that the arrangements should continue after devolution, and the two Governments have agreed to work to achieve that.