“given the particular operational emphasis of this year’s conference…”

According to a Belfast Telegraph report, unlike previous years, neither the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, nor the Irish Justice Minister, Alan Shatter, will attend this year’s cross-border police summit on organised crime co-operation.  From the Belfast Telegraph report Mr Shatter said that, given the particular operational emphasis of this year’s conference, it would be more appropriate for the Garda Commissioner and the PSNI Chief Constable to take the lead. Rather than attend the conference, the two ministers, the Commissioner …

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“The department of justice said discussions about the precise source of funding for the HET are continuing…”

The issue of funding the ongoing work of the Historical Enquiries Team, as well as its perceived independence, may be about to become a matter of political disagreement…  As the BBC NI home affairs correspondent, Vincent Kearney, reports Hundreds of families have co-operated with the team on the basis that it was acting independently. Many families of people killed during the Troubles, including relatives of some RUC officers, did not want former police officers from Northern Ireland involved in the review …

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Alliance Party Conference preview #apc13

The Alliance Party returns to La Mon Hotel on Saturday for its annual conference. Back at the beginning of December, Alliance’s role in the Belfast City Hall flag decision – and the subsequent intimidation of elected representatives and damage to property – perversely looked like overall it might boost the party’s support. However as the protests dragged on over Christmas and into January and February, Alliance are less and less associated with the story; instead unionist fora, unionist unity and …

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“Items not detected included drugs, mobile phone batteries, scissors and a knife.”

The BBC NI home affairs correspondent Vincent Kearney seems to have gotten hold of a prison service evaluation report of the three month trial of electronic body scanners at Magilligan prison and Hydebank Wood –  as a suggested alternative to full-body searches.  The Assembly’s Justice Committee is due to discuss the report tomorrow [Thursday].  From the BBC report Items not detected included drugs, mobile phone batteries, scissors and a knife. Nearly 1200 prisoners and prison staff were searched using two millimetre wave …

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David Ford: Ideological differences not being handled inside the SDLP…

John Manley has an interview with David Ford in today’s Irish News. Much of it what you might expect, but Mr Ford is clearly taking the opportunity to throw out a long line for nationalist voters (traditionally an area of poor returns for the party). If there was ever a time for them to go fishing for nationalist voters it is probably now when the party’s stock is relatively high after their central part in the flag vote in Belfast. …

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Our Time? Our Place?

Your captions are welcomed. Brian SpencerBrian is a writer, artist, political cartoonist and legal blogger. Actively tweeting from @brianjohnspencr. More information here: http://www.brianjohnspencer.com/ www.brianjohnspencer.com/

Governing alcohol consumption: Who are the winners?

“Excuse me mate, the only reason you could possibly want to go into this club is to get drunk as a skunk, so get back in the car.” A Belfast taxi man has confidently told me that people in his profession are the most knowledgeable people around when it comes to what’s happening on our streets. Robert said that when he took passengers from Lavery’s bar in Belfast to a nightclub at 00.45 on May 26th; the PSNI were waiting …

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NI Justice Minister: “While this area will obviously require careful handling in Northern Ireland…”

Some Northern Ireland MPs have united in opposition to suggested proposals to extend the UK Government’s powers to monitor people’s phone, email and internet records.  Some don’t appear to have an opinion…  Although there does seem to be some dispute about the actual proposals themselves. Meanwhile, as the BBC report, the UK Government has actually consulted on other proposals to replace the public interest immunity [PII] system with an extended closed material procedures [CMP] in all civil cases, including inquests, involving evidence whose disclosure might harm the …

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“That would require approval by the justice committee, the executive and by the assembly as a whole”

According to the BBC report’s headline -“Justice minister may look into the rehiring of RUC officers”.  Well, he may. At issue, apparently, are the unknown number of former RUC officers in the 399 staff currently supplied by a recruitment agency for temporary employment, as civilians, by the PSNI.  Apparently, again, “Sinn Fein has asked the Northern Ireland Audit Office to investigate the issue.”  [Because the NI Policing Board decided not to? – Ed]  Possibly… But as the first linked BBC report notes of the …

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Justice Minister: “grandstanding and chest beating seen in the Chamber” on mandatory sentences call

As the BBC reports, yesterday in the Northern Ireland Assembly, by 44 votes to 41, MLAs called on the NI Justice Minister, Alliance Party leader David Ford, to “introduce legislation to impose mandatory minimum prison sentences for people who are found guilty of violent crimes against older or vulnerable people”. The motion was agreed despite opposition from the NI Justice Minister and a number of MLAs with legal backgrounds.  The NI Justice Minister also pointed out that, “officials from my Department are in …

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Hostage taking in NI prisons

Since his election earlier this year Jim Allister has become something of a bête noire for justice minister David Ford. It was Allister who first exposed the possibility of changing the symbols of the prison service and dropping the term “Her Majesty’s Prison” resulting in Peter Robinson’s slap down for Ford. Allister also highlighted the discovery of a large amount of cash being brought to Maghaberry. His latest questions to Ford have produced the revelation that in the past four …

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“David Ford’s department is like Jurassic Park.”

Apparently, according to BBC NI’s Martina Purdy, Sinn Féin’s Gerry Kelly, MLA, Northern Ireland Junior Minister Policing Board member, gave “a fiery speech on the Police Ombudsman” at the party’s ard fheis at the weekend.  It’s not listed in the party’s collection… [Added by AlaninBelfast …] In the Irish News today, Diana Rusk says he went “off script” when telling the Chief Constable, Matt Baggott, that he “must face down the dinosaurs” in the PSNI.  Being “off script” might explain why Gerry Kelly seems to have borrowed his …

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“there are these enormous delays and they are holding up cases at all levels”

The BBC reports comments by senior judge, Mr Justice Hart, criticising the lack of “properly resourced” and “properly organised” forensic science facilities in Northern Ireland.  From the BBC report The judge said: “There is an entirely unacceptable and unjustified and indeed gross delay on the part of the relevant authorities in dealing with the analysis of what is alleged to be in this instance cannabis. “I’m not in any way seeking to attach blame to individuals concerned, but there is …

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Questions remain over Lillis release

Given the high-profile campaigning on the case, the Northern Ireland Parole Commissioners’ uncommon statement about their apparent u-turn in re-releasing on licence former Provisional IRA member, Brendan Lillis, fails to address concerns of political interference in that process.  Here’s what the commissioners are reported to have said In a statement they said: “The Parole Commissioners have been tasked with making decisions about prisoners according to established procedures. “All decisions made by commissioners comply rigorously with these procedures and they have not departed from …

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David Ford: “as minister my decision has to be bound by the best professional advice I can be given.”

Having met with various interested parties, and despite the advice from Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, the Northern Ireland Justice Minister, David Ford, has rejected calls to free former Provisional IRA member Brendan Lillis on compassionate grounds.  From the BBC report Mr Ford said he had taken “an active interest” in the case and had sought additional independent medical advice. However, he said while it was within his power to free Mr Lillis, he had been advised that there were not sufficient grounds for …

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McGuinness: “I trust that David Ford will take the right decision…”

Having interfered in an ongoing police investigation last week, this week the Northern Ireland deputy First Minister Sinn Féin’s Martin McGuinness, MP, MLA, doubles up by giving the NI Justice Minster, David Ford, some legal advice.  From the BBC report “There can be no doubt that Brendan Lillis is seriously ill and does not represent a threat to anyone,” Mr McGuinness said. “The decision of the British Secretary of State Owen Paterson to revoke the licence of Brendan Lillis is …

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Life Sentence Review Commission deny Brendan Lillis release

There’s an ongoing campaign for the release of former Provisional IRA member, Brendan Lillis, on compassionate grounds.  But the BBC report that the Life Sentence Review Commission have just confirmed the Prison Service’s view that there were not sufficient grounds to justify his release.  From the BBC report Republican prisoner Brendan Lillis will not be released on compassionate grounds, the Life Sentence Review Commission has decided. Mr Lillis, who suffers from a severe arthritic condition, was sentenced to life in 1977 on explosives …

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Legal Aid Fees Dispute: “It’s a farce.”

More on the ongoing legal aid fees dispute.  UTV reports that just 18 out of 500 law firms in Northern Ireland have said they are willing to work under the disputed new pay rates. A Department of Justice spokesman said: “Copies of the list of firms willing to undertake criminal legal aid work is available to all defendants seeking legal representation from court offices. “Copies of the list have also been provided to the Prison Service for clients on remand without …

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The Legal Aid Problem – it isn’t going away you know..

In this mornings paper copy of the Belfast Telegraph [sorry not on the interweb at time of writing] Deborah McAleese writes, “A high profile solicitor [DG Bell] who broke ranks in the legal aid dispute has dramatically withdrawn his offer to work for reduced fees amid allegations of bullying in the increasingly bitter battle between lawyers and the Justice Minister. It is understood that the firms owner took the decision after being subjected to hostility in court from other solicitors”. …

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