Belfast Telegraph

Justice budget is desperately picked over as cutbacks loom

By Deborah McAleese

The cuts are coming but the budget pressures for devolved policing and justice just keep growing.

The Justice Committee is set to meet today to prioritise the areas that simply cannot be axed and those that can potentially be shelved, in a desperate bid to meet the looming cutbacks.

The Belfast Telegraph can reveal that among the budget pressures facing the department over the next four years is a need for £134m for the PSNI to deal with security related matters, which includes money for police over-time, close protection work and forensics.

Another £36m is needed by the PSNI to replace and refurbish 850 armoured vehicles, as well as almost £30m to replace soft skin vehicles and the PSNI helicopter.

According to a Justice Department document submitted to the Department of Finance — seen by the Belfast Telegraph — outlining its spending plans for the next four years, other budget pressures include:

  • Resources to cope with an expected increase in prisoner numbers. The number of inmates is anticipated to grow by 145 over the next four years. The Northern Ireland Prison Service needs more than £160m for a new adult male prison complex at Magilligan, additional cellular capacity to ease population pressures and for staff costs to facilitate the rise in prisoner numbers.
  • The Prison Service would also like £6m over the next four years for a new visiting facility to “minimise access to drugs, enhance family links to prevent reoffending and create staff efficiencies”.
  • £16m is needed by Forensic Service Northern Ireland for new accommodation and to maintain an explosives capacity. The budget report states that if additional funding is not provided “it will be impossible to retain any competent staff in explosives investigations”.
  • Almost £40m is needed over the next four years for the PSNI to deal with legacy issues, including the work of the Historical Enquiries Team — whose funding is not budgeted for after 2012/13. £4m is needed for the Police Ombudsman to deal with historical enquiries and £5m for the Court Service to deal with legacy inquests.
  • £105m is needed by the PSNI and Prison Service for the provision of the Public Service Training College at Desertcreat.
  • The electronic tagging of offenders to monitor curfews imposed as a condition of bail, community sentence or post-custody licence, is estimated to cost £2.5m over the next four years.

The spending plan shows that the Department of Justice is hoping to recoup £13m for its budget by 2014/15 by selling off the Prison Service training college at Millisle, which has outline planning for 177 residential units, as well as the disposal of various police stations, PSNI vehicles and various Probation Board premises.

Belfast Telegraph


From Belfast Telegraph