Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Fifth Report


Second Memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office

ROYAL ULSTER CONSTABULARY (COMPLAINTS ETC.) REGULATIONS 2001 (S.R. 2001/184)

1. The Committee has requested a memorandum dealing with five questions. The request which was received on 12th July, asked for a memorandum by 17th July. It was explained that it would not be possible to conform within the Committee's deadline as 12th and 13th were public holidays in Northern Ireland. As the Committee did not meet again before the Parliamentary recess, the Department mistakenly assumed that the memorandum would not be needed until Parliament resumed. The Department apologises for this. The answers to the Committee's questions are set out below.

    (1)  If it was necessary for these regulations to come into force on 2 May, why were they not made earlier so as to comply with the 21 day rule, given that section 65 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000 came into force on 22nd December 2000.

2. Work on the regulations was begun during the passage of the bill which became the Police (Northern Ireland) Act 2000. Indeed a draft was tabled during the Commons Committee stage. But the consultation process became protracted because the political policies in Northern Ireland were concerned about the extent to which the Ombudsman would be permitted to investigate old cases. The debate with the policies took much longer than expected; and after it concluded it was necessary to conduct a further round of statutory consultation which ended on 27th April 2001.

3. As explained in the memorandum which accompanied the regulations when they were laid, following this consultation, it was necessary to make the regulations as quickly as possible in order to protect the Ombudsman from old claims which it was not intended that she should consider.

    (2)  Explain why the provision amending other instruments (Regulation 2) appears before the provisions dealing with interpretation and application (regulations 3 and4) (See paragraph 2.28 of Statutory Instrument Practice)

4. The Department regrets that Regulation 2 has been mistakenly put in the wrong place.

    (3)  With regard to the three paragraphs numbered (7) inserted by Regulations 2(1)(c) and (f) and 2(c), explain:

      (a)  the need for these provisions, given they purport to be without prejudice to primary legislation;

      (b)  why they were included, given that the department acknowledged in its memoranda to the Committee in relation to the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Conduct) Regulations (S.R. 2000/315) and the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Complaints etc) Regulations 2000 (S.R./318) that identical provisions in those instruments were unnecessary and would be removed.

5. Regulations 5(7) and 29(7) of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (Discipline and Disciplinary Appeals) Regulations 1998 and regulation 4(7) of the Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve (Part-time) (Discipline and Disciplinary Appeals) Regulations 1998 as inserted by regulation 2, follow the provisions of those regulations which are expressed to be without prejudice to the Powers of the Independent Commission for Police Complaints to approve an investigating officer under Article 9 of the Police (Northern Ireland) Order 1987. They were inserted to make clear that, when considering an old case, the Ombudsman would have power not only to approve an investigating officer, but to appoint one herself.

6. However, the Department accepts that the provisions are strictly unnecessary.

    (4)  Regulation 4 limits the application of "these regulations". Is this limitation intended to apply to regulation 2? If so, explain the effect of this, given that the instruments amended by regulation 2(1) and (2) apply only in respect of conduct which occurred or commenced before 6th November 2000.

7. Regulation 4 limits the application of the regulations to any complaint made on or after 6th November 2000 or to a matter brought to the Ombudsman's attention on or after 6th November 2000.

8. The instruments amended by regulation 2 apply to conduct which occurred before that time, but such conduct may be the subject of a complaint to the Ombudsman or be brought to her attention after it, in which case the amendments made by regulation 2 will apply.

    (5)  In regulation 6(4) and 9(4) is the intention that the Ombudsman should have the option of referring a complaint to the Chief Constable as provided in section 54(3)(b) of the 1998 Act, or may she only investigate it herself as provided by section 54(3)(a)?

9. The intention is that the Ombudsman should herself investigate such cases under section 54(3)(a).

General

10. The Department intends shortly to review all the instruments relating to the powers of the Ombudsmen with a view to consolidating them. The Committee's comments will be taken into account as part of this exercise.

October 2001


 
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