Question Time: Justice Tuesday 27 January 2015

Alban Maginness and Sandra Overend asked for Justice Minister David Ford’s views on the campaign to see minor offences, committed before the age of 18, to be removed from criminal records. Mr Ford met with NIACRO, who launched the campaign, and described their case as “compelling” but warned that “it is a complex issue that requires the careful balancing of public protection with the need to ensure that young people are not stigmatised for the rest of their life because of a single poor choice”. The Minister expressed his sympathy in certain cases and highlighted his commitment to the issue by pointing to the steps he has taken to find a more balanced approach to Access NI filtering (what is/isn’t disclosed on a person’s criminal record). As part of the Justice Bill the Minister intends to introduce a review of filtering “that means that people will be able to ask for an independent review of their case, even after the application of filtering, if they believe that the disclosure of the information is disproportionate.”

Roy Beggs also asked the Minister what assessment has been given to the value for money of Policing and Community Safety Partnership (PCSPs) grants to the community and voluntary sector. The Minister said that “the recent Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) review of PCSPs highlighted the need for a post-project evaluation to be made against a recognised baseline of agreed measures. While there were some examples of successful projects that represented good value for money, inspectors noted the lack of evidence of value added by others and recommended the development of baseline measures against which projects can be assessed.” The Department and Policing Board want to ensure that PCSPs have a positive effect on local policing and safety issues and plan to review the CJINI recommendations and propose a joint action plan by mid-February.

The Minister also answerd questions on ‘injury on duty’ awards for the PSNI, community policing budget, staffing levels at Maghaberry prison and the transfer of Michaela McCollum from Peru to Northern Ireland.

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