Clause 87 - Transitionals and savings

Part of Justice (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 10:45 am ar 14 Chwefror 2002.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Mr Seamus Mallon Mr Seamus Mallon Social Democratic and Labour Party, Newry and Armagh 10:45, 14 Chwefror 2002

Thank you, Mr. Conway. The purpose of the amendments is shared.

The review group, whose recommendations we have considered, expressly recommended the establishment of a new, independent prosecution service, with new arrangements for prosecutions and new measures to ensure its accountability. In paragraph 4.174, it foresaw that the implementation of its recommendations would entail

''building upon the responsibilities and work of the existing Department of the Director of Public Prosecutions.''

However, it underlined that it would also involve

''taking on new work, a different approach to aspects of its existing work and substantial organisational change.''

The review group went on to make recommendations about how the new Public Prosecution Service would be staffed and organised to ensure that it would be able to discharge its duties. Those duties include the appointment of the DPP and his deputy through open competition before a selection panel, in accordance with procedures established by the Civil Service Commissioners for Northern Ireland in recommendation 59 of the criminal justice review. Subsection (2) defers the implementation of that important recommendation until some unspecified time in the future. It is worth considering it in detail, because it is not only contrary to the spirit of the review's recommendation but it is ill-defined, so implementation will probably not take place for some time.

The existing DPP might become the new DPP under the new dispensation. Let us assume that he or she is appointed at 35 years of age. That would give him or her ample time to have obtained 10 years' experience. It could therefore be 30 years before that crucial part of the recommendations would be implemented, notwithstanding the possibility that the Attorney-General might extend the period of tenure for the DPP past the age of 65, in which case it could take longer. That point might be a little over-stated, but it is true. We should not agree to defer the implementation of that crucial recommendation.

We do not know who the DPP or the deputy DPP will be when clause 31 comes into force. Whoever it is, the review's recommendation will not be implemented until one or other of those people reaches the statutory retirement age of 65, which may be extended by the Attorney-General. I find that most unsatisfactory because the new beginning and approach of the DPP will be the flagship for the Bill. It will be the flagship for the entire project of establishing a criminal justice system that will command the respect and allegiance of all. If that flagship does not leave port until some point way down the line, the entire project will be damaged.

If my hypothesis is right, I will not live to see the new dispensation in operation, and neither will many hon. Members present. Nevertheless, it is the crucial element of change in the Bill. The clause does not stand up, and should be amended. I made that point in a previous debate and I make it again today. We have already debated the review group's recommendation that the appointment of the DPP should be through open competition before a selection panel in

accordance with procedures established by the Civil Service Commissioners in Northern Ireland. When does that apply? Does it apply to the DPP who is in place and would become the new DPP? It will not happen for some time.