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Sixth Report by Justice Oversight Commissioner

Volume 447: debated on Wednesday 14 June 2006

The Government have received and welcomed the sixth and final report from the Justice Oversight Commissioner, the right hon. the Lord Clyde, on the progress achieved in implementing the recommendations of the Review of the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland. Consistent with his terms of reference, the report was submitted to the Attorney General, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary for Constitutional Affairs, my hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, East (Bridget Prentice), who is the Minister responsible for the Northern Ireland Court Service and me in May.

Lord Clyde's sixth and final report acknowledges the significant transformation of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. He confirms that the majority of the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review have been implemented and he considers that the completion of most of the few remaining individual recommendations is simply a matter of time. He concludes that throughout the course of his oversight work, there has been a steady momentum of progress, commenting that the institutional changes and the operational progress which have been achieved over the past three years have been remarkable. The key elements of reform have included, inter alia, the establishment of a Youth Justice Agency; a Community Safety Unit; a Criminal Justice Inspectorate; the introduction of new lay magistrates; a new Public Prosecution Service; an independent Northern Ireland Judicial Appointments Commission; the signing of an Intergovernmental Agreement on cooperation on criminal justice matters; the Lord Chief Justice as the Head of the judiciary in Northern Ireland; the continued guarantee of judicial independence in Northern Ireland; youth conferencing; the introduction of victim information schemes and court witness schemes; and the bringing of 17-year-olds within the ambit of the youth court.

Lord Clyde concludes that the agencies who have managed these reforms deserve credit and congratulation. The Government warmly endorse these conclusions.

Copies of the Commissioner's report have been placed in the Library.