Question Time: Justice 09 December 2013

In his latest Question Time David Ford, the Minister of Justice, took to his feet to answer questions on subjects including the legal aid budget, search procedures in procedures, Cross-border Cooperation and domestic abuse.

The Minister outlined to Dolores Kelly that neither he nor his "officials have had any discussions with or received any submissions from the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People about the proposed changes to legal aid for family law cases." The Minister also stated that he has done his best "to ensure that we will not see any cuts that would affect the rights of vulnerable claimants, be they children or others." Mr Ford also pointed out that "we are maintaining the scope of legal aid at a significantly wider level than in England and Wales."

In response to a question from Leslie Cree on whether further search technology is to be piloted in local prisons the Minister stated that "the Northern Ireland Prison Service has evaluated millimetre wave scanners in the prison environment and has sought to obtain the necessary licences and approvals to pilot transmission X-ray body scanning technology in our prisons." Mr Ford also pointed out that the Northern Ireland Prison Service is at the forefront in these islands of looking at this technology and while it is in use in airports, it is not in use in any prison or similar facility anywhere in these islands.

In answering a question from Cathal Ó hOisín the Minister revealed that there is "very positive ongoing cooperation between the various criminal justice agencies across the two jurisdictions" (of Ireland). Mr Ford also stated that the area of human trafficking was a key concern for both jurisdictions and revealed that the Garda Síochána were working with the PSNI in the Organised Crime Task Force subgroup on human trafficking.

The issue of a domestic abuse disclosure scheme was raised by Michael Copeland. The Minister revealed that Department Officials would evaluate the success of the scheme that is currently being rolled out across England and Wales.

When asked by Ian McCrea about the local drugs problem the Minister stated: "statistics provided by the PSNI indicate that drug seizures and arrests have seen upward trends over the past three years."

During topical questions, the Minister responded to questions on abortion, Bloody Sunday, EU Justice and Home Affairs Council, cattle and farm machinery theft, collusion and criminal records.

You can read the full transcript from Question Time on our website.

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