Schedule 6 - Inspections and complaints

Crime and Courts Bill [Lords] – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 29th January 2013.

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Question proposed, That the schedule be the Sixth schedule to the Bill.

Photo of Paul Goggins Paul Goggins Labour, Wythenshawe and Sale East

I apologise to the Whip; I will try not to take too long. This is a genuine attempt to help the Minister in his negotiations with colleagues in Northern Ireland. I draw his attention to paragraph 1, which deals with inspections in Scotland. It requires that, before an inspection is carried out, there is consultation by the Secretary of State with Scottish Ministers, and there is a parallel in paragraph 2 for what is required in Northern Ireland; the Department for Justice must also be consulted. However, in sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) of paragraph 1, arrangements are made for HMIC to carry out an inspection jointly with the Scottish inspectors, where the matter to be inspected falls wholly or partly within Scotland. Yet it does not make the same arrangement in Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland has its own criminal justice inspection system, Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland, which has the power to inspect not just prisons, probation, the justice system, the prosecution service and the courts, but also to inspect the police. I think it would be a very welcome addition if the Minister would consider putting in the same arrangements for Northern Ireland as are in for Scotland. This would give more confidence that the inspection arrangements in Northern Ireland could be added to HMIC’s efforts to inspect the work of NCA in Northern Ireland, in a way that is wholly constructive. This would hopefully help to reassure colleagues who may be sceptical of what is proposed that there will be full scrutiny which is accessible to their own system.

There is one very particular reason why I encourage the Minister to think along these lines. If, under the Bill, an NCA officer in Northern Ireland is using the powers of a constable, and if there is a complaint about the conduct of that officer, that complaint will be handled by the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland. It would not be dealt with by the independent inspectorate here. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland is inspected by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland. For both those reasons, and for general reassurance about the very practical issues relating to the powers of oversight that the Ombudsman has, I do not expect a long response from the Minister now. I genuinely encourage him to see if arrangements parallel to those he has already provided for Scotland could be made for Northern Ireland.

Photo of Ian Paisley Jnr Ian Paisley Jnr Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Work and Pensions), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

Given our earlier discussion, the sort of compromise that the right hon. Gentleman has just mentioned might be worth while in certain discussions the Minister might be having.

Photo of Jeremy Browne Jeremy Browne The Minister of State, Home Department

Obviously, the situation in Northern Ireland is somewhat fluid. Perhaps we would like it to be more fluid—it is perhaps too set—but anyway it is not entirely predictable. The right hon. Member for Wythenshawe and Sale East has raised a constructive point, and I undertake to add his constructive contribution to the wider deliberations that are taking place.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6 accordingly agreed to.

Clause 11 ordered to stand part of the Bill.