24th January 2003
Transfer of Policing and Justice Powers
Neither the police force nor the legal, judicial and administrative system in the north of Ireland have, historically, enjoyed the support of nationalists and republicans because of the overwhelming British and Unionist ethos and their overt political and cultural opposition to Irish nationalism and republicanism.
Achieving a police service and justice system which has the confidence and enjoys the support of the entire community will require a new attitude which breaks with the minimalist approach to change which has characterised this debate since the publication of the Patten Report.
Specifically it requires that the Patten recommendations be implemented in full. This is the minimum base line from which we can start to build a police service which is representative of our entire community.
As well as the Patten recommendations, the process of change in the Criminal Justice system is central to the process of achieving an acceptable police service and justice system. This process of change must be accelerated.
In line with the Good Friday Agreement and in the context of the full and faithful implementation of the Patten recommendations, Sinn Fein wishes to see the early transfer of powers on policing and justice to the Assembly and the North/South Ministerial Council.
. Transfer of powers in the areas of policing and justice to the Northern Assembly and Executive;
. Comprehensive North-South arrangements in relation to policing and justice consequential upon transfer;
. Judicial transformation; and
. An end to repressive legislation;
Both the Good Friday Agreement and the NI Act 1998 envisaged the transfer of powers on policing and criminal justice matters. This process was also envisaged both in the Patten Report and in the Criminal Justice Review. This matter should now be addressed.
POWERS TO BE TRANSFERRED
All relevant reserved and excepted matters relating to policing and criminal justice should be transferred.
Transfer of powers on justice and policing must be accompanied by all-Ireland institutional architecture under the aegis of the North/South Ministerial Council.
The imperative in relation to justice and policing issues, then, becomes "to develop [in the NSMC] consultation, co-operation and action on an all-island and cross border basis".
This should be developed through the creation of two separate implementation bodies in relation to justice and policing. The remits of the two All-Ireland Implementation Bodies should include, among other functions:
. co-operation between accountability mechanisms
. development of Judicial Services Commission, the all-Ireland Constitutional Court, Law Reform Commission, and joint approaches by the Judicial Appointments Commission in the north and the Judicial Appointments Board in the south
. joint studies on restorative justice;
. harmonisation of accreditation in the legal profession;
. harmonisation of terms and conditions of service in matters of justice and policing;
. development of an all-Ireland police training college;
. co-operation on matters of public order policing;
. compilation of an all-Ireland sex offenders register and harmonisation of criminal investigation procedures and sentencing for sex offenders;
. joint studies on drug misuse and unified action on an all-Ireland basis to prevent, detect and prosecute drug-dealers.
. progressive harmonisation of both Irish systems of law,
Following on from the transfer of functions in the justice field, the NSMC should also bring forward proposals to enable judges from either jurisdiction on the island to function in the other.
Proposals should also be brought forward under the aegis of the NSMC for the harmonisation of mechanisms for dealing with judicial misbehaviour or wrongdoing.
The judiciary in any society can play a key role in defining the parameters of acceptable police behaviour. The north of Ireland has long been particularly deficient in this regard given the close connection between Unionism and the judiciary, and the identification of Unionism with the RUC. The goal in this sphere must be the transformation of the northern judiciary from its present partisan position to one in which it is representative of this society in terms of political background, religion, gender and class.
The single most effective step that could be taken in this regard would be the creation of a new Constitutional Court for Ireland. This court should provide the final adjudication at national level on all constitutional and human rights questions. Its membership should be drawn from new appointees to the bench from the legal professions, from legal academics with expertise in the area, as well as from the ranks of the existing judiciary. A precursor should be the creation of a Constitutional Court for the north of Ireland which would include judges from the south. The constitutional court s functions should include:
. dealing with human rights issues arising from the bill of rights in the north and equivalent 26 county issues on appeal from lower courts,
. the interpretation of matters relating to the implementation of the GFA on an all-island basis,
. consideration of the impact of international human rights instruments.
Repressive legislation must be abolished. The relevant legislation is now the Terrorism Act 2000 (Part 5) which has unified the NI (Emergency Provisions) Acts and Prevention of Terrorism Acts into a composite piece of legislation.
The repeal of that part of the Terrorism Act 2000 (i.e. Part 5) relating to the 6 counties is required.
A number of other issues should be addressed. These include:
. legislation governing inquests,
. the standards governing the use of lethal force,
. freedom of information,
. the eradication of "criminal convictions" obtained under emergency legislation.
The final area to be considered in the context of transfer of justice and policing powers concerns those who will administer, advise and implement these most sensitive areas of authority.
. All representatives of the British intelligence services should be withdrawn from the civil service committees and from the civil service as a whole.
. A reform package should be put in place calculated to maximise rotation of posts as between those civil service units with responsibility in the areas of justice and policing and other units/departments.
. Arrangements to ensure community and gender balance at all levels of these important administrative sections are essential. As the Patten report pointed out, there is a pressing need to ensure that the composition of civil service units in the area of policing - but it applies also to justice - are broadly reflective of the political, religious and gender make-up of society.
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