Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)
|Formed||12 April 2010|
|Headquarters||Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SG|
|Employees||2,493 (September 2011)|
|Annual budget||£1,213.1 million (current) & £78.3 million (capital) for 2011–12|
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The Department of Justice is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The current Minister of Justice is Claire Sugden, who is a member of the Northern Ireland Executive. The department was established on 12 April 2010 as part of the devolution of justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It combines the previous work of the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Justice, within the United Kingdom Government, which were respectively responsible for general justice policy and the courts in Northern Ireland.
The partition of Ireland created a separate jurisdiction of Northern Ireland in June 1921. A local Ministry of Home Affairs was established at that time and oversaw most aspects of justice policy until the introduction of direct rule in March 1972. The Northern Ireland Office, led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was subsequently responsible for security and political affairs during the remainder of the Troubles.
The post of Lord Chancellor of Ireland was abolished in 1922 and replaced in Northern Ireland by the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. His supporting department and the subsequent Department for Constitutional Affairs (2003–2007) oversaw the courts until the formation of the Ministry of Justice in May 2007.
Most aspects of social and economic policy were devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive in December 1999. The devolution of policing and justice was pledged in the St Andrews Agreement (of October 2006) and the Hillsborough Castle Agreement (of February 2010) and occurred in April 2010.
The Minister of Justice is elected by a cross-community vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly, unlike all other Northern Ireland Executive posts, which are either allocated by the d'Hondt method or appointed directly by the largest parties (i.e. the First Minister and the deputy First Minister).
The exception was made to resolve a dispute between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Féin. The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland successfully nominated its party leader, David Ford, on 12 April 2010. Ford was re-elected to the position on 16 May 2011 and was Minister until 2016. On 25 May 2016, Claire Sugden was elected the new Minister of Justice, following the Alliance Party's refusal of the Justice Ministry.
The department supports the Minister of Justice in "building a fair, just and safer society". It has four stated objectives: to "work in partnership" to produce a safer society and reduce the risk, and fear, of crime; to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland has access to justice, without undue delay; to protect the public by reducing offending and managing offenders; and to contribute to the Shared Future strategy (now known as the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy) for Northern Ireland through the operation of the justice system and assist in "enhancing decision-making and strategic resource management".
- the Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland
- the Forensic Science Northern Ireland
- the Northern Ireland Prison Service
- the Youth Justice Agency
- the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
The Probation Board for Northern Ireland is responsible to it as a non-departmental public body. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is operationally independent and accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board; the Minister of Justice has overall responsibility.
The Department of Justice is responsible for most everyday policing and justice powers in Northern Ireland. These include:
- criminal law;
- public order;
- prisons and probation;
- criminal history disclosure (the AccessNI service).
Some justice matters remain reserved to Westminster, with the Assembly's agreement e.g. the prerogative of mercy in terrorism cases, illicit drug classification, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the accommodation of prisoners in separated conditions within the Northern Ireland Prison Service, parades and the security of explosives.
In addition, some justice matters remain excepted and devolution was either not discussed or not considered feasible: extradition (as an international relations matter), military justice (as a defence matter), the enforcement of immigration law by UK Visas and Immigration, and national security (including intelligence services).
The Department of Justice's main counterparts in the United Kingdom Government are:
- the Home Office (on policing, drugs and public order);
- the Ministry of Justice (on criminal law, courts, prisons, probation);
- the Northern Ireland Office (on national security in Northern Ireland).
Ministers of Justice
|Minister||Image||Party||Took office||Left office|
|David Ford||Alliance||12 April 2010||6 May 2016|
|Claire Sugden||Independent||25 May 2016||26 January 2017|
- Northern Ireland Executive
- List of government departments and agencies in Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland law
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- Section 16A(5), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
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- "Department of Justice and Equality: What We Do". Justice.ie. Retrieved 22 March 2011.