Clause 1

Part of Justice and Security (Northern Ireland) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 5:45 pm on 16th January 2007.

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Photo of Mark Durkan Mark Durkan Leader of the Social Democratic & Labour Party 5:45 pm, 16th January 2007

I shall avoid rehearsing a number of the points that we have dealt with earlier.

I oppose this clause. We have already discussed the detail of the provisions involving the DPP and the circumstances in which the non-jury trial option might be used. We have also touched on the Secretary of State’s comments on Second Reading that national security and intelligence matters could be considered in that. I want to share one of our fundamental concerns with the Committee, which is that the provisions have implications for how things will work out and be seen to work out in the devolution of policing and justice. The clause gives a key role, which is quite controversial, to the DPP to do something that the Government have assured us would not be provided for.

The joint declaration of 2003 made it clear that the emergency provisions were going to go. The Government amendments to the Terrorism Act 2003 gave effect to the commitments in the 2003 joint declaration, but now they have been reversed. When those amendments removed the Diplock courts and made sure that they would not exist after July 2008, we were also debating the options for the devolution of justice and policing.

Anyone looking at those debates taking place in parallel would see that, with the arrival of justice and policing devolution, a devolved Minister would not be in a position to face questions about decisions on the use of non-jury trials, even though he they might have their own views or concerns. They would not be in a position to know why such decisions were taken, because, as the Secretary of State suggested on Second Reading, the DPP would be taking them on the basis of receiving information from MI5 or a similar source. The devolved Minister—a devolved committee in the Assembly might also be interested or concerned, because no doubt lawyers, defendants and other people would be writing to it—would be in the difficult position of having to say that they knew nothing, could know nothing and potentially could do nothing.