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 assure the hon. Lady that we absolutely do. I did not say that any Minister would wish to influence decisions; I said that they would not be in a position to know why decisions were made or anything else about them. The fact is that a Minister will inevitably face questions, whether they are from lawyers, defendants or members of committees.

If there is a pattern of non-jury trials and no information is given in the certificates, people will say that we should at least know on what grounds people are being referred to a non-jury trial. People will question the procedure and protest the fact that they cannot know why the certificates were supposedly issued. Lawyers will protest at that.

If a devolved Minister is meant to simply defend the status quo, then they will be is in a very constrained and difficult situation. That is why we said on Second  Reading that the Bill is pregnant with implications and complications for the devolution of justice and policing. Perhaps the Minister will clarify the plans for the devolution of justice and policing. The provisions are not renewable but permanent. Will the amendments be subject to Westminster legislation or can they be altered, amended or repealed by the devolved Assembly after devolution? Will the Minister clarify which it is to be? If they are to be amended by the Assembly, I assume that cross-community support will be needed before they can be altered.

In a sense, the Bill means that Diplock courts will be born again just ahead of the devolution of justice and policing. They will become part of the suite of devolved justice arrangements, which can be changed only on the basis of cross-community support. On current form, that will not happen unless and until the DUP says so. Not only will we have continuity Diplock courts, but essentially we will have DUP-lock courts. Again, I ask the Minister whether Sinn Fein fully realises that. Is Sinn Fein in on it, or has it slept in?