The British and Irish governments agreed to continue to work together to enhance current criminal justice protocols as part of the preparation for devolution of policing and justice.
Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins, MP, and his counterpart Brian Lenihan, TD, met in Dublin to review progress on a range of cross border initiatives. They also agreed with the recommendation by the Northern Ireland Assembly and Executive Review Committee’s (AERC) that current agreements to enhance cooperation on criminal justice matters should remain in place at the point of devolution.
Paul Goggins said, “Devolution should serve to strengthen the close working relationship our criminal justice agencies have built together. Their work in sharing information, expertise and knowledge is paramount in supporting our communities and tracking down criminals.
“The inter-governmental agreement has already facilitated significant improvement in the work of criminal justice agencies on both sides of the border. We share the same problems and are addressing the best ways of solving them, together.
“At our meeting today Brian Lenihan and I agreed that we would work together to address the Northern Ireland Assembly recommendation and help ensure that suspects and criminals who seek to beat the law in either of our jurisdictions can find no hiding place.”
Minister Lenihan said, “While we already enjoy excellent working relationships with the criminal justice agencies in the North, I believe that devolution offers every prospect of enhancing that cooperation to the benefit of all law-abiding people, North and South. Minister Goggins and I will, of course, continue to work to facilitate that transition.”
Notes to editors :
1.The Criminal Justice Review (2000) made several recommendations relating to cooperative working between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, including the establishment of a group of criminal justice policymakers from the two jurisdictions (rec.278).
2.In the Updated Implementation Plan (2003), the two governments set out their intention to reach an inter-governmental agreement on cooperation in criminal justice matters within the framework of the British-Irish Intergovernmental Conference (BIIGC). This agreement was signed on July 25 2005.
3.The Agreement establishes a regular meeting of the two responsible ministers, reporting to the BIIGC, at which they:
- discuss criminal justice matters of mutual interest or concern in the two jurisdictions.
- consider the scope for, and develop plans to achieve, more effective cooperation and coordination on criminal justice matters between the two jurisdictions.
- oversee and give direction to the work of the working group.
- approve and periodically review progress against work programs on criminal justice cooperation.
4.The Agreement also establishes a working group of officials from the NIO and Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR). Members support the ministerial meetings, take forward work on progressing the relevant recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review, and identify other areas in which cooperation on criminal justice matters could be enhanced or initiated, as appropriate. The working group prepares, seeks the agreement of the ministers to, and implements work programmes on cooperation and coordination on criminal justice matters.
5.Members of the group oversee the separate implementation within each jurisdiction of initiatives flowing from the work program, within the context of the Belfast Agreement. The group and its work program are wholly within the Strand Three arrangements set out in the Belfast Agreement.
6.Those areas addressed by the agreement, include work on liaison between forensic units, monitoring registered sex offenders, public protection, youth justice, and improving arrangements for victim support.
7.The agreement relates to criminal justice matters prior to devolution. The Assembly and Executive Review Committee recommended that the arrangements should continue after devolution, and the two governments have agreed to work to achieve that.