The DUP’s track record of delivery on Justice shows what can be achieved through strong leadership of the Committee and fully utilising the opportunities of legislation in the Assembly.
Through both these opportunities the DUP was able to deliver on its manifesto commitments to:
- provide a Victims’ Charter – this Charter will prioritise the needs of victims within our criminal justice system and set the minimum standards of what support to expect;
- introduce Sarah’s Law – a new law to increase the information available to the public through a new child protection disclosure scheme;
- provide better protection for ambulance staff – a new law so they will receive the same legal recognition as police officers and firefighters;
- provide smarter justice - a new fines and enforcement bill to allow fines to be deducted from benefits etc to tackle the problem of people serving public sentences for non-payment of small fines;
- provide tougher and better sentencing - a new law to ensure anyone given conditional early release must serve remainder of sentence doing community service.
In addition the DUP has:
- delivered new ‘revenge porn’ laws – bringing Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK;
- campaigned for greater action on animal cruelty – the Public Prosecution Service has new powers to appeal lenient sentences; helped expose mismanagement in the prison service and led the campaign for change; stood by its commitment to family values and marriage and will continue to do so.
The recent callous murder of Adrian Ismay was a reminder of the violent and backward agenda of dissident republicans. The continuing existence and criminal activities of all paramilitary groups is unacceptable. The DUP tabled the motion in the Assembly which led to the full introduction of the National Crime Agency (NCA) to Northern Ireland. In the Fresh Start Agreement the DUP secured:
- £160m new resources for the PSNI to go after paramilitaries;
- a £50m cross border task force of the NCA, PSNI and Tax authorities to ensure no safe havens;
- a new anti-paramilitary strategy to remove this lingering scourge;
- a new international monitoring body.
The DUP has prioritised the needs of victims and will always do so. In all its work the DUP applies three tests:
- there must be no amnesty for wrongdoers;
- there must be no rewriting of the past;
- there must always be help for victims to get justice.
We have used devolution to quadruple the level of funding provided under Direct Rule. The DUP has also overseen a fundamental reform of support services. We have attempted to overcome the past failure of the UUP to get a proper definition of victim and to achieve a pension for severely disabled victims.
1. LET VICTIMS DECIDE
A plan on dealing with the past was the one element that eluded the Fresh Start Agreement but the DUP believes substantial consensus was reached. The DUP believes that the Draft Bill should be published. Victims should be allowed to see what is on offer and provide the opportunity for them to give their opinions.
2. FULL IMPLEMENTATION OF THE FRESH STARTANTI-PARAMILITARY MEASURES
The DUP will pursue the full implementation of the measures to tackle head on the lingering poison of paramiltarism. The way of the terrorist gun and bomb was never acceptable and never will be. Those who refuse to change must be pursued by all legal means and put out of business.
3. PROBLEM SOLVING COURTS
Aspects of our present system are failing victims. Repeat offending goes unaddressed and thus creates more victims. In appropriate cases a different approach is required to prevent criminality and keep communities safer. The DUP will support establishing problem solving courts across Northern Ireland with a particular focus on domestic violence courts and drugs courts. Evidence shows that this approach can reduce reoffending and save the taxpayer money in the longer term.
4. OPEN POLICING AND JUSTICE
The DUP supports utilising technology to help the citizen have greater access to justice and to improve the efficiency of the system. We therefore support the digitisation of the courts and the full introduction of body cameras for police officers – this would assist in evidence gathering, driving up standards and in addressing vexatious complaints about the police. Furthermore, the DUP supports the introduction of cameras into some of our court rooms e.g. the Court of Appeal.
5. ONLINE CIVIL JUSTICE
The pursuit of lower value civil disputes can be problematic for both the courts and those seeking redress. The DUP supports the adoption of an online dispute resolution system, similar to that operating in the Netherlands and Canada. This system would provide appropriate legal advice and judicial oversight available throughout the process. It is also quicker and improves outcomes whilst also reducing the cost to the individual.
6. LEGAL ACCESS FUND
Legal Aid budgets continue to come under significant pressure, and this can create problems in regard to access to justice for some family or domestic violence cases. The DUP supports the introduction of a central pro bono fund that can provide assistance in cases where legal aid is not available. This can be funded by allowing courts to make ‘pro bono cost orders’ in cases when the winning party is represented wholly or partly pro bono.
7. A NI REGISTER OF ANIMAL CRUELTY OFFENDERS
A difficulty in enforcement of banning orders for those convicted of animal cruelty is the disjointed nature of offender monitoring. Therefore, the DUP wants to see the introduction of a NI Register of Animal Cruelty Offenders.
8. FULL PROTECTION FOR ACCIDENT AND EMERGENCY STAFF
With five physical and verbal assaults every day on A&E staff, the DUP supports extending the same legal recognition of firefighters, police and ambulance staff to the staff of Accident and Emergency facilities.
9. GREATER PROTECTION FOR THE ELDERLY AND VULNERABLE
The DUP will increase the maximum period of imprisonment for offences involving violence or neglect directed against the elderly or vulnerable.
10. PARADES AND PROTEST
The DUP supports new legislation for a fresh start on the how parades and protests are dealt with in Northern Ireland.