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Devolved policing and justice benefits everyone

On Tuesday evening I had the very great privilege of speaking in the House of Lords in favour of the devolution of policing and justice powers to Northern Ireland.

When the former Northern Ireland Parliament was prorogued in 1972, the Prime Minister of the day, Brian Faulkner, rightly expressed the view that a government without policing and justice powers was not worth having at all. These powers were a necessary attribute of government then and remain so today.

For many years the DUP has been committed to devolving policing and justice, provided the necessary conditions were met.

These conditions, namely community confidence that the police and the courts would maintain their operational independence, have been met in the Hillsborough Agreement.

The return of these essential government functions to locally elected and locally accountable politicians should be welcomed by all the people of Northern Ireland. It gives us an invaluable opportunity to make the criminal justice system responsive to the needs of victims.

As this makes a real improvement to the lives of people, the opposition to devolution which continues to be displayed by the UUP is frankly baffling - especially considering that they were willing to devolve these powers in 2003 without any safeguards or pre-conditions whatsoever.

It is my hope that the UUP will put party-politicking aside and unite with the rest of the people in Northern Ireland and help make these new powers work to help ease the suffering of victims.

LORD BROWNE OF BELMONT

House of Lords

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