Belfast Telegraph

Friday 22 August 2014

Stormont's justice devolution team to see how others do it

Memmbers of the Stormont team tackling the transfer of policing and justice powers to the Assembly are to visit London and Edinburgh as part of a fact-finding mission.

DUP, Sinn Fein, Ulster Unonist and SDLP MLAs from the Assembly and Executive Review Committee are also due to travel to Dublin in the next few weeks.

Their trip to London is due to include a meeting with Justice Secretary Jack Straw and is likely to touch on negotiations with the Treasury on a financial package to underpin the switch-over of powers.

Committee chairman Jimmy Spratt said: “I believe these are important visits, particularly our trip to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh where a (justice) committee is already up and running.”

But the DUP MLA confirmed the committee’s second report, which is expected to trigger moves towards the long-delayed transfer from Westminster, will not now be finalised until the next term of the Assembly after the summer recess.

While there has been speculation the DUP’s poor performance in the European election could have a further knock-on effect on the timetable for the transfer, the Government has made it known it hopes to complete the transfer by the end of this year. Mr Spratt said, however: “I have repeatedly said this is a process we are involved in. There are certainly no dates, we are not tied to any dates.

“A lot of things have still be sorted out and of course there is also a parallel process going on involving the Office of the First and Deputy First Minister and the Treasury.

“All of this will feed into our final report but it will probably not be ready until early in the next term. ”

The justice committee in Edinburgh, is working on criminal procedures and sentencing and is appointing a special adviser to help scrutinise the Scottish budget.

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