Policing and Justice
The Good Friday Agreement recognised the centrality of policing for any society, as well as its emotive and divisive history in Northern Ireland. It was therefore agreed to set up an independent commission to make recommendations on new policing arrangements which would have the confidence of all parts of the community. This Commission, headed by Chris Patten, consulted widely and issued its report in September 1999.
The Office of the Policing Oversight Commissioner monitored the implementation of the Patten recommendations. In his final report in May 2007, the Oversight Commissioner confirmed that substantial progress has been made in transforming the policing arrangements, with 140 of the 175 recommendations (80%) recorded as fully implemented. Achievements include increased recruitment of catholic officers, greater accountability and oversight through the Northern Ireland Policing Board and the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland as well as fuller engagement with local communities through District Policing Partnerships.
The Government consistently called on all parties in Northern Ireland to fully endorse and engage with the new policing structures for the benefit of everyone in the community. The issue of policing and the rule of law was further covered in the St Andrews Agreement paving the way for representatives of all parties to take their seats on the Policing Board in May 2007.
Achievements in the area of policing were central to the restoration of stable power-sharing institutions in Northern Ireland, and the Government continues to work in support of the full devolution of Policing and Justice in May 2008, as outlined in the St.Andrews Agreement.
The Good Friday Agreement included provision for a wide-ranging review of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland (other than policing and those aspects relating to emergency legislation) to assess the need for reforms. The Review Group reported on its findings in March 2000. It made a total of 298 recommendations. The British government accepted the recommendations and published both legislation and an implementation plan in 2002 to give effect to the recommendations.
A revised implementation plan was published in 2003 which included provision for the appointment of a Justice Oversight Commissioner to oversee progress in implementing the Criminal Justice Review recommendations.
The Criminal Justice Review also recommended the establishment of an independent inspectorate of the criminal justice system. The Criminal Justice Inspectorate of Northern Ireland was established in August 2003. The Inspectorate is responsible for inspecting all aspects of the criminal justice system, other than the courts. It carries out both agency-specific and thematic inspections and all its reports are published.The Criminal Justice Review also referred to North-South cooperation on criminal justice matters, recommending that that “a group of criminal justice policymakers from the two jurisdictions be established…to identify and advise on the opportunities for co-operation at government level and between the criminal justice agencies North and South”. The Agreement on Cooperation on Criminal Justice Matters was signed on 26 July 2005 by Minister Michael McDowell T. D. and NIO Criminal Justice Minister David Hanson.