Justice Minister Announces Reform Of Court Committal Process

Justice Minister Naomi Long has announced new legislation to reform the court committal process.

The Criminal Justice (Committal Reform) Bill, which was passed in the Assembly today, contains measures which will remove some avoidable delay in the current system and reduce the impact of giving oral evidence on victims and witnesses.

Announcing the new legislation, Naomi Long said: "Today marks a significant step forward in much needed plans to reform the criminal justice process. I have heard all too often of the impact on vulnerable victims and witnesses in the most serious and horrendous crimes who have to give traumatic evidence not just once, but twice as part of our current criminal justice process. This alone can understandably deter vital witnesses from proceeding with a case.

"The provisions of this Bill mean that following implementation, no victim or witness from new cases brought forward can be put on the stand to be examined and cross-examined in a committal hearing before the actual trial.
News Image
"I am also well aware of the impact of the time it can take for cases to progress through court on all concerned. This Bill simplifies the system and allows for quicker progression in some of the most serious of cases, ultimately reducing the length of time that those who have endured so much already feel that their lives have been put on hold.

"I have said from the outset that improving the experiences of victims and witnesses encountering the justice system was my priority and I welcome this further step towards that end."

The reformed Bill will;

• remove the option for the oral evidence of victims and witnesses to be heard during the traditional committal hearing and;

• enhance provisions within the Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2015; simplifying the process of direct committal and allowing cases involving some of the most serious offences to bypass a traditional committal hearing and go directly to the Crown Court.

The Bill was introduced to the Northern Ireland Assembly in November 2020 and is expected to receive Royal Assent in early 2022. It is hoped that the removal of oral evidence from the traditional committal process will take place shortly thereafter, with provisions in relation to direct committal being implemented at a later stage when the necessary systems and processes are in place.

Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

11 May 2022
New Troubles Legacy And Reconciliation Bill Confirmed
The UK Government has announced plans to introduce a Northern Ireland Troubles (Legacy and Reconciliation) Bill and an Identity and Language (Northern Ireland) Bill. The plans for the new Bills was confirmed in the 2022 State Opening of Parliament.
19 November 2020
Birmingham Pub Bombing Arrest 'Significant Step For Victims'
The arrest of man in Belfast in connection with the 1974 Birmingham pub bombings has been welcomed as a "very significant step for the victims". Welcoming the news DUP South Belfast MLA Christopher Stalford, said: "This is a very significant step for the victims. I remember when the families came to meet the then First Minister in 2013.
06 November 2020
Sexual Crime Victims Continually Let Down- Green Party NI
Latest official figures on sexual offences in Northern Ireland show victims are being continually let down, the Green Party has claimed. Calls for improved outcomes for victims have emerged after the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) revealed that the conviction rate for the offence of rape stands at 29.9%.
25 May 2022
Legacy Legislation Claims 'Out And Out Lie' – Eastwood
The British Government's claim that proposed legacy legislation is designed to promote reconciliation has been described as "an out and out lie", by SDLP Leader Colum Eastwood. The Foyle MP was speaking in the House of Commons where he outlined a number of cases where victims of British Army, IRA and UVF murders would be denied justice.
24 May 2022
'Indecent Haste' To Rush Through Flawed Legacy Legislation – SF
Sinn Féin have accused the British government of acting with 'indecent haste' to rush through totally flawed legacy legislation against the wishes of victims and families.