Question Time: Justice Monday 15 June 2015

Minister of Justice, David Ford, discussed the Department’s approach to reduce offending during today’s Question Time. Last September the Minister approved the creation of a new reducing offending directorate and will shortly be publishing the new directorate’s strategy for reducing crime. The focus will be on working to rehabilitate people who have offended in order to build a safer community – “Research indicates that there are several factors that can support the process of desistance, including securing and engaging in employment, maintaining relationships with family and community, and having hope and motivation to change.” Complementary to that ongoing work is the establishment of a partnership between the Prison Service, Belfast Met and North West Regional College, which will work to improve educational attainment and the employment prospects of prisoners. A facility has also been opened at Burren House, providing a low security pre-release programme to prepare prisoners to work in the community and engage in employment opportunities. Mr Ford also recognises that more can still be done and promises “my Department will continue to explore innovative and effective ways of reducing offending and making Northern Ireland safer.”

Trevor Lunn then enquired whether the Minister has had any discussions with the Chief Constable about the social and financial implications of public disorder arising from disputed parades and related protests this summer. Mr Ford asserted that he has regular discussions with the Chief Constable about many issues including parades and protests and their implications. They met last month and plan to meet again before the July parades. The Minister recognises the rights of those who wish to parade within the law and of those who wish to protest peacefully, encouraging everyone to abide by the rulings of the Parades Commission and hopes “that wise heads will prevail this year, that true leadership will be shown, and that we all see a peaceful summer.”

During Question Time the Minister also answered questions on staffing and morale in prisons, the redevelopment of HMP Magilligan, social investment bonds and the Integrated Domestic Abuse Programme. During the topical question period Mr Ford also answered queries on legal aid, HMP Maghaberry, the Victims of Crime Fund and the Youth Justice Agency.

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