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Irish Examiner: North's Justice Ministry Urges Alternatives to Criminal Prosecution

25th March 2010

Greater use should be made of alternatives to prosecution for lesser offences, the favourite for the justice ministry in the North said today.

Fixed penalty notices, prosecutorial fines and police cautions could be used to reduce the burden on the courts system for offences like anti-social behaviour, David Ford added.

The Alliance Party leader addressed a conference in Belfast today."There is a real potential for positive reform. However, there are very serious challenges to be faced," he said.

"Even though there has been agreement between the First and Deputy First Ministers and the Prime Minister on the financial package, the vast majority of this money will go to addressing legacies of the past, and there is little provision to deal with future financial pressures.

He said there should be changes to how local security scrutiny structures like District Policing Partnerships and Community Safety Partnerships are organised as well as legal aid reform.

"In particular, devolution creates new opportunities for collaboration between government departments and agencies on shared objectives," he added.

"Examples of potential improvements include ensuring that the criminal justice system assists efforts to build a shared future, addressing the high incidence of mental health and personality disorder issues within the prisoner and offender population, and tackling reasons for offending and other forms of anti-social behaviour."

Other issues which must be addressed are health problems in prisons, wider alcohol strategies and licensing issues.

Mr Ford also wants to see the development of a Victims' Code of Practice to help them through the prosecution process and beyond.

Mr Ford is favourite for the new justice post after Sinn Féin and the DUP agreed not to nominate a candidate.

Read the article in the Irish Examiner here.

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