Joint Committee on Statutory Instruments Twenty-Seventh Report


Appendix 2

S.R. 2003/293: memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office

Prisoner Release Victim Information (Northern Ireland) Scheme 2003 (S.R. 2003/293)

1. The Committee considered the above instrument at its meeting on 23rd June 2003 and requested the department to submit a memorandum on the following points:

(1) Article 4(6)(b) states that the information referred to in Article 4(2)(b) (that is, information that the offender's temporary release is being considered) will be provided to the victim before temporary release is considered where it is reasonably practicable to do so. Explain the circumstances in which this will be reasonably practicable.

2. The wording of Article 4(6)(b) mirrors that used in section 68(3)(b) of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002, which provides that the scheme must, unless it is not reasonably practicable to do so, require the fact that the temporary release of an offender "is being considered" to be made available. Given that under section 69 a victim may make representations concerning temporary release, the intention of section 68(3)(b) must be, and the intention of Article 4(6)(b) is, that where practicable this information is to be released before a decision is made on temporary release.

3. The department acknowledges that the wording of the instrument is not as clear as it might be and undertakes to clarify this when the scheme is next amended. If the ambiguity in Article 4(6)(b) is such that it could never be reasonably practicable to provide the information in article 4(2)(b) before the application is considered then article 4(6)(a) will apply and therefore before the instrument is amended the operation of the instrument will not be hindered.

(2) Article 5(2)(c) appears to apply where the offender has less than three months left to serve at the time the application for information is being considered. Is it intended (as stated in the Explanatory Note) that it should apply where he has less than three months left to serve on the date the scheme comes into operation?

4. The department agrees that the Explanatory Note does not accurately reflect the effect of Article 5(2)(c). The department apologises for this mistake and undertakes to clarify the effect of Article 5(2)(c) when the scheme is next amended.

30th June 2003

S.R. 2003/293: second memorandum from the Northern Ireland Office

1. The Committee considered the above instrument at its meeting on 7th July 2003 and requested the department to submit a further memorandum on the following point:

In its memorandum of 30 June, the Department states that the Explanatory Note does not accurately reflect the effect of Article 5(2)(c) of this Order, and undertakes to clarify the effect of that provision when the scheme is next amended.

Does this statement mean that the Explanatory Note needs amending to reflect the article or that the article does not have the intended effect? In either case, explain why the Department proposes to delay making the required amendment?

If article 5(2)(c) has the intended effect, explain why this ground for refusal applies only where the offender was convicted of the offence before the scheme comes into operation.

2. The Department accepts that Article 5(2)(c) does not have the intended effect. It was intended that Article 5(2)(c) would have the effect as set out in the Explanatory Note, namely that the Secretary of State could refuse to supply information to a victim if the offender was convicted before the scheme came into operation and at the time the scheme came into operation the offender had less than three months left to serve.

3. The effect of Article 5(2)(c) is to give the Secretary of State a wider power to refuse to provide information than was intended. However, it is only a power and the Secretary of State is not obliged to refuse to make the information available if a case falls under Article 5(2)(c). The Secretary of State intends to apply a policy, when operating the scheme, so that he only refuses to provide information in the more narrow circumstances that were intended to be enacted by the scheme.

4. The Department expects that some minor changes will be needed to the scheme when it has been in operation for a few months. Since, in the light of the matters set out above, the Department does not consider that any person will suffer any detriment as a result of the drafting error, the Department proposes to amend or revoke Article 5(2)(c) when the scheme is next amended or in any event within the next six months.

11th July 2003


 
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