13/04/2010

New Era Of NI Policing Begins

As the NI Policing Board welcomed devolution of the last powers to Stormont yesterday, the newly installed NI Justice Minister David Ford has said that his appointment heralds a new era.

He said that, for the first time in 38 years, a locally elected and accountable Minister has responsibility for policing and justice powers, including civil justice.

The new Department of Justice Minister vowed to get down to work immediately with Mr Ford commenting: "This is a day of huge opportunity for all the people of Northern Ireland, marking a new era for the justice system.

"The transfer of policing and justice powers from Westminster to the Northern Ireland Executive allows local people to shape the justice system so that it meets local needs in the future," he said.

It was roundly welcomed by the Acting Chair, Brian Rea, of the Northern Ireland Policing Board, who said: "This is an historic day for the people of Northern Ireland and marks another milestone for the peace process and policing.

"Whilst the Board's oversight role and responsibilities will remain unchanged, the new devolved arrangements will undoubtedly bring some new challenges for policing.

"There will also be opportunities for partnership working across the wider Criminal Justice sector and building new relationships with other agencies," he said.
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Mr Rea continued: "I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate David Ford on his appointment as Minister for Justice and the Board looks forward to working with him, his Department and the Statutory Committee to build on the significant progress that that has been made in policing in recent years."

A range of policing and justice powers has been transferred to the Department of Justice and its remit stretches beyond policing and criminal justice issues with responsibility for civil law functions also falling to the Department.

In conclusion, the new Minister, Mr Ford, said: "With justice powers now sitting alongside health, education, social development and others at the heart of local government, there is a real opportunity to make a difference and build a shared future for everyone in Northern Ireland.

"The Hillsborough Castle Agreement outlined proposals that could be incorporated as the Department of Justice's addendum to the Programme for Government and I want to start developing those further.

"I also intend to get out and speak to those working in the criminal justice system and listen to what they have to say and the challenges and problems they encounter on a daily basis," he said, but warned that the size of the challenge ahead cannot be underestimated.

"Change will not happen overnight and it will require everyone in the criminal justice system pulling in the same direction.

"I look forward to working closely with colleagues in the Executive, the Justice Committee and those in the criminal justice system in the days and months ahead."

(BMcC/GK)

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