Oral Answers to Questions — Justice

Part of the debate – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 2:45 pm on 17th February 2020.

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Photo of Naomi Long Naomi Long Alliance 2:45 pm, 17th February 2020

Yes, I can. With respect to the provisions that have been made in Westminster under the emergency legislation, we consulted with the Ministry of Justice and the Northern Ireland Office and indicated that, whilst there were a number of issues about how sentences are constructed in Northern Ireland and, specifically, about any retrospectivity that might be incurred as a result of the changes proposed in Westminster, there was no barrier to the legislation being applied UK-wide. We made it clear that that was our preference. Indeed, in a conversation with the Justice Minister for England and Wales, Robert Buckland, I made it clear that that was my preference, because I was concerned about the risk of a two-tier system of approach being set up in the UK when it comes to the paroling of terrorist prisoners.

At the end of the day, the decision was taken by the Ministry of Justice. It is not a decision for the Department of Justice here. The decision was to exclude Northern Ireland from that. Our first sight of that decision was the press release about the legislation that was issued by the Ministry of Justice. There will be other opportunities for Northern Ireland to be included in the counterterrorism Bill that is about to come through Westminster, so the door, if you like, has not completely closed on that chapter. I have written to the Ministry of Justice and to Robert Buckland to make it clear that, in future, we expect a higher level of exchange of information between Departments before announcements of that gravity are made.