19/02/2013 Stormont Today


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont.

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Welcome to the programme. Coming up: The retention of DNA and


fingerprints. I think that totally and absolutely undermines the


principle of innocence -- innocence. We were here from representatives


of the allied party and Sinn Fein. We made a plea that we watch our


language, and any starts to call some people clowns. I don't think


it is helpful at all to refer to people as clowns. Why sorry is the


hardest word. This whole time for members, they come through my


office door and apologies -- apologise. I would take confessions


The Criminal Justice Bill reached another stage of its passage


through the House this afternoon, dealing with human trafficking and


sex offenders. It also seeks to clarify the law over the DNA and


fingerprinting. This issue prompted the most debate in the chamber.


There is a provision within the bill as tabled for the definite


retention of DNA and fingerprints where a person is charged as a


result of an arrest. A person who is not subject to a prosecution,


and note... That totally undermines the principle of innocence. We had


a discussion early on about the role of this assembly. The role of


this assembly is to protect citizens. The role of the assembly


is to protect citizens against those criminals who are torching


their local community. The problem he has to face is that there are


many, many examples of the technology we now have, or -- of


people who have committed the most violent crimes who have been


detected, charged and a pruners -- imprisoned on the basis of DNA


profiling. The police made it very clear that the retention of his


mature was absolutely essential in order to pursue those criminals.


DNA was taken in 2001. I could have gone to the police and destroyed it,


but I have nothing to fear. Is he going to deny the PSNI the right to


have access to remote Montana RG2 depend criminals? This could solve


a horrible crime. First of all, you should not presume that everything


-- everyone who is arrested is a criminal. When they are asked about


the statistics, when they asked about the many cases because of the


retention, they weren't very for -- forthcoming. What the majority of


the public wants is to ensure that we are not soft on crime, and not


soft on criminals. What I am concerned about is that some on the


opposing benches here want to give every possible opportunity for


criminals to evade the law, and that is the reason for some of


these amendments. I listen to Mr McCartney earlier, who said that


DNA was postal -- personal property. Of course it is, but if it can be


used to the benefit of the public and the law, then it should be your


used. We believe the courts are best suited and best place to deal


with any issues that arise. The biometric commissioner, all well


and good, the people who have the experience and authority, and I


believe and my party believes that they should be the adjudicator if


necessary. I agree with what you just said, it is important to


support the law, and we, as the party, are anxious to support the


law. But the law is not just simply a matter of procedure, the law also


includes concerns about citizens'' right. The amendments proposed


about the biometric Commissioner. They had no difficulty with the


position. It makes the point that they cannot go into the Kora meant


every single time that there is dispute of this nature and --


Of course, as a public authority, that would in -- indeed fall to


them. That should make any reservations about non-compliance.


In Northern Ireland, the database holds 5% of the population, and


under the new framework, that will reliefs -- changed to 4%. In


Scotland, it will be 6%, and in England and Wales, it is 8%. In the


USA, 3.5 %, in France, 1.4 %. While there is no doubt that the database


in the UK generally is something of three times the European average,


they are proving 20 times more efficient. We have seen in recent


years, the the database in Northern Ireland, and it is not the database


that can be to people it is the -- it is the police. It has led to it


the arrest of 700 people by the PSNI. The listening to that, we'd


have Stewart Dickson and Raymond McCartney. You say you are a


liberal. What you support the retention of DNA? I think it is


important that the DNH is retained. It is an area of concern. This is


retention from people who are not ultimately committed -- -- who have


not committed any crime. He highlighted in the statistics he


gave to the house today that the pretension of that DNA least two


important decisions being made. It will deliver convictions down the


line. Isn't the danger that your party is opposing this and you'll


be seen as being tough -- soft on crime? No, I don't think so.


Throughout the proceedings, we let out our approach, and the basic


principle is that the European Court of Human Rights is total, and


the presumption of innocence. We will do everything we can to


attempt -- protect this. That is what we have taken the position


that we have. If you have nothing to hide, why worry about this?


think the human rights commission address that. They may be example


that DNA is private property. We may assume that there is nothing in


our homes. Yet certain times, we do not have an open-door policy. We


must not take the position that if you have nothing to hide, come


forward with your DNA. If you say to someone after being arrested, or


someone has faced court proceedings that they are innocent, they are


holding on to your DNA, then you have what is called suspicion, or


at nearly guilty. That is not necessarily going to be for ever.


In circumstances it won't be, and I think that is a dressing some


aspects of the human rights binding. But we feel that there are other


aspects where it will be held indefinitely. We need to address


that. Are you satisfied, Stewart Dixton, but this parts -- this past


eight human rights test? -- Stewart Dickson? The case was critical of


the country's that did not go through retention. What the human -


but what the European Court said is that the Scottish government but it


added a ruck by having a retention framework. They can apply for


extensions. By which time, the sample is destroyed. This is not


indefinite retention. That is why it is a human Court of European --


European Court of Human Rights protected. Does not violent really


need another commission? The person will be someone who will be public


servant within a public organisation. It is vitally


important that it is a commissioner rather than the courts, because it


if you wish to appeal against the decision to hold a DNA sample, if


you go to court, that is a public proceedings, and you may well be


faced with a situation where it is reported. That you had your DNA


sample destroyed. At some future case, that may skew public opinion


against you as someone going to court. If he had but a right of


appeal to a public myth dinner, done in private, and no public


decision, you can go back to court. Widowed Hill there is a need for a


commissioner, but as something that is a judicial process, we believe


that the are bad -- best arbiters is that this to be contested. It


could be a necessary piece of bureaucracy. We could be left open


to the accusation that the commissioner is part of the


Department, and there -- that make The Enterprise Minister has


dismissed concerns that recent scenes of disorder could cause


problems for the forthcoming World Police and Fire Games. Arlene


Foster was asked whether trouble in North Belfast on Saturday could put


off athletes coming here. First, though, she faced a question about


a project backed by Tourism Ireland. Could the Minister confirm to the


House that she does indeed support to the global Greening, which could


see landmarks such as the pyramids in Egypt being turned green, and


can she confirmed that the first and Deputy First Minister will be


able to support the Rio de Janeiro initiative when they visit Brazil?


I thanks a member for his question. It is tourism Ireland's initiative,


and it has been going on for some considerable time. It has happened


on the leaning Tower of Pisa, the Sydney Opera House, and they are


looking for new and innovative ways to do this, so they will continue


to look to that. What I'm interested in is how they're going


to give stand out to Northern Ireland in respect of what they do


across the world, particularly in relation to Belfast and the


difficulties that have been on going, how they're going to address


those issues. I would like referred to the activities of last weekend


where there were disgraceful scenes and a football match had to be


cancelled by the activities of some clams on the street. Could the


Minister ask what answer the question about the potential for


the Police and Fire Games just around the corner? Surely those


scenes that we have seen last weekend, is there any indication


that the sports people that have coming here will still come? I say


to the member that we made a plea that we watch our language, and


then he gets up and start to call some people clowns. I don't think


it is helpful to refer to be able as clowns. We had a successful


lunch which row attended along with the mayor of Belfast. When we were


talking about the accommodation figures and we passed the 2 million


mark in relation to accommodation for the Royal Police and Fire Games,


which are very much welcome, we had some people over her work


competitors in the last World Police and Fire Games, and frankly


they were having a good time right across Northern Ireland, they


visited Fermanagh, they visited the north coast and were of course in


Belfast as well. And they were singing the praises of this place


as a destination. That is the sort of positive message we want to send


out. We fully support the back in Belfast campaign, but given the


fact that the Derry City Council have had a business case in for the


last number of mums looking for some help and support with -- the


last number of months looking for help and support with this, we need


to try to make sure we have the biggest available budget for


marketing that we can get for what is the biggest event in 2013.


thanks a member for his question. He will know that it is not just


about my department in all of this, and indeed we have been working


very closely with both the City Council and the culture company in


relation to the marketing and communications plans going forward.


Under the new executive advertising guidelines, I have to obtain


permission for any marketing and communications campaigns in


Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, and there is a proposal


for a bespoke marketing campaign for the UK City of Culture, and


that is currently being considered. I am hopeful a decision will be


taken in the very near future. How much will the long-awaited


Education Skills Authority cost the Education Department, and will it


be the biggest quango in Europe? Just some of the issues facing the


Education Minister John O'Dowd during question time earlier.


projected annual budget for the Education Schools Authority will


largely be the some of the Budget so the existing eight arm's-length


bodies that will transfer. The Council for schools, the staff


commission and the council. The budget in 2012 to 2013 of these


eight bodies was a 1 billion -- �58 million capital. This function and


some of operational duties currently carried out by the


Department will also transfer, along with any associated resources.


Work is currently on going to establish a level of funding, but


at this stage, are high level of the Budget will be in something in


the terms of 1.8 billion a resource and 1.2 billion capital. I thank


the Minister for that response. This is meant to be about saving


money and being more efficient, but it will effectively become the


largest quango in Europe. Can the Minister detail when he will be


bringing forward the detailed case for the Education Schools


Authority? I don't accept his description, but I'm not absolutely


clear as to what the opposition is based upon, and expected is more


political than educational, and if that is so, there is a danger of


potentially damaging the educational potential of our


society, because I have yet to hear a rational argument as to why they


are opposed. It will not be anywhere near the largest quango in


Europe. In fact I would question their democratic -- their


definition of a quango, when this is democratically accountable.


Campbell. The minister previously outlined a number of administrative


savings that are currently ongoing and had been ongoing in recent


years. Does he envisage further savings and when the Education


Schools Authority is established? Continued savings will be a matter


for the board and in terms of what the educational budget looks like


at that time, but it is expected that the establishment will


initially saved around �25 million per year in terms of advice and


support for schools, and secondly, the rationalisation of educational


administration will have �50 million of savings. That will be


made per year from the administration and management costs


of these various bodies. The savings issue is important, but the


main driver was to ensure that we had an educational body which could


deliver a modern fit for purpose education service to the


communities it serves. The education boards are outdated. That


in no way undermines the good work carried out by its members. The


function of the Education Schools Authority is to modernise the


approach. Mr Speaker, I have listened carefully to the


minister's replies so far, and I am sure the minister is aware that


Chalobah was another publication on literacy and numeracy. Cannot the


minister assure us that this organisation will put an end to the


many millions -- thousands of children leaving school each year


with no ability to read or write? The report actually said that there


were children whose literacy and numeracy skills were not what they


should be. It did not say they could not read or write. I notice


today in the paper there is judgment upon us without even


hearing the report of the Accounts Committee. I would like them to


give the audit report a fair hearing. It does not tell us


anything we don't already know. No member of this House should be


surprised at the Fanny its findings. - match -- the finance findings. We


have been saying all along that this needs to be fixed. The audit


report highlights that we have policies in place that will fix it,


but it will take time and further resources to fix it. The hearing in


relation to the report shows that. The Education Minister John O'Dowd.


Last week we heard how electronic scanners like those used in


airports will not replace full-body searching in prisons in Northern


Ireland. Prison staff appeared before the Justice Committee to


explain the findings of a three- month pilot scheme. Sue McAllister,


the director general of the prison service, said she was disappointed


by the outcome of the pilot, as we can hear now in our weekly look at


Regarding our evaluation of the millimetre wave Scanners, you will


now be aware from your papers and reports in the media that the


results of the pilot showed that in the prison environment, there were


limitations to the technology, and that our current for surging


processes provide a higher level of assurance by finding more of the


test items than the scanning technology. A closed session will


undoubtedly enable us to go into the evaluation in much more detail,


but I think it is important to say at this stage that we are


disappointed at the outcome of the pilot. It is our view that in order


to preserve the security of the Establishment and the safety of


prisoners, staff and the wider community, the requirement for full


searching on entry to and exit from the prisons and in some other


circumstances must remain until a satisfactory alternative can be


found. What has been the reaction from Republicans? Why you are alert


to what the reaction could be, to the fact that what they are


demanding isn't going to happen? have been clear all along that this


is a technological solution for the Prison Service and not about any


specific group of prisoners. A pop at the -- the pilot has only just


finished, and we have not shared the findings of anyone else before


coming to brief you, because that would not have been appropriate. We


have not shared the findings with any prisoners. Do you expect to


reaction? We have been talking to the staff and assessors who going


regularly to speak to prisoners, and we know there will be an


interest. My view is that there is not a higher expectation amongst


those prisoners that this will be necessarily suitable for our


purposes. Set it remains to be seen what a reaction will be. We have a


much less intrusive way of carrying out a full search than in other


jurisdictions. In England and Wales, the prisoner can be required to


lift his genitals, to squat and pull apart his buttocks, for


example, if there is reason to believe items are concealed. There


are things that are done that are clearly more intrusive and less


pleasant for staff that we don't do. Why do we not do it? We have never


done it to my knowledge, certainly not in recent times, and our view


is that the benefits of doing it outweigh the risks and the


implications for decency and dignity. Is there any legal


barriers to doing it.? If you decided that you felt it was


necessary, for example to deal with the drugs problem? I don't know the


answer to that, but I do know that when I was head of the security


group in England and Wales, we had to ascertain that it was legal for


us to do what we did, so it is certainly legal in England and


Wales to do the things that I have explained. What they don't know,


because we have not asked that question, is whether we would


legally be able to do it. But I certainly have no wish to explore


that at this time, and don't think it operationally necessary. I think


it is much more appropriate that we look at technological solutions


than explore ways of increasing the intrusive nature and are full


search. Well, Raymond McCartney and Stewart Dickson are still with me.


Raymond McCartney, does this mean that the future is body searching?


No. There was a focus at the committee on having a technological


solution. We live in the 21st century. Everyone had different


angles, but we all accept that the body search is intrusive. We have


to ensure that the pilot scheme is not seen as a one-off. We need to


look at how we can modify the scanner for the needs of the pilot.


Is it embarrassing that the scheme hasn't come up with the result that


many people wanted to see? I think people wanted to see the technology


be more effective than it was. I think it is possible that some


changes can be made. There is a further piece of equipment that is


available, as well, but that requires UK wide permission,


because it is an X-ray machine. And prisoners are right to have health


and safety concerns about the use of this equipment. Peraza has have


a right -- prisoners have a right to refuse to use this equipment if


they choose to. Now, just before we go, the Speaker, Willie Hay, was


not happy with some MLAs who were missing during yesterday's Question


Time. But in the spirit of Lent, it seemed he was in a forgiving mood.


I raised the issue yesterday of members not being in their place


during question time, especially members who have been named on the


paper for a question. I have had one member through my door who has


apologised. Thus far, I had nobody else. We know the members who were


not in their place yesterday, so there is still time for members to


come to this house and apologise, through my office door and


apologise. I will take confessions wherever they may be.


A political programme focusing on the day's events at the Assembly and Northern Ireland Executive. Mark Carruthers is the guide through the corridors of power at Stormont, and is joined by key people from decision makers to opinion formers to make the experience enlightening and entertaining.

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