Page last updated at 14:02 GMT, Monday, 12 April 2010 15:02 UK

What will happen when policing and justice is devolved?

The Northern Ireland Assembly has appointed David Ford as the minister in charge of a new Department of Justice. It follows a deal between the DUP and Sinn Fein over the devolution of policing and justice powers from Westminster to Northern Ireland's power sharing administration.

The move has been described as the "the final piece of the devolution jigsaw" but what will actually happen?

WHO WILL EXERCISE DEVOLVED POWERS?

A new post of justice minister has been created on the Northern Ireland executive.

The minister's department takes over responsibility for many functions and agencies currently controlled by the London-based Northern Ireland Office.

As well as taking over responsibility for the police, the new ministry will oversee bodies like the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Public Prosecution Service, the Court Service, the Probation Board and the forensic science service.

HOW WILL THEY BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE?

In common with the other ministers in the Northern Ireland Assembly, the justice minister will be scrutinised by a cross-party committee of assembly members.

Lord Morrow of the DUP has been appointed as chairman of the committee, the deputy chairman is Sinn Fein's Raymond Mc Cartney. Mr Cartney is a former IRA member.

It is not yet clear how the work of this committee will affect the Northern Ireland Policing Board, the body which oversees the work of the police. The majority of the board are assembly members.

WILL THE JUSTICE MINISTER HAVE OVERSIGHT OF NATIONAL SECURITY ISSUES?

No - several criminal justice agencies will continue to be controlled from London including the Serious Organised Crime Agency, Customs, the Borders Agency and MI5, the security service.

MI5 has a large facility in Holywood, close to Belfast.

Extradition matters will also continue to be controlled by London.

WILL NI HAVE ITS OWN ATTORNEY GENERAL?

Yes, the attorney general will be the Executive's chief legal advisor.

The political parties have already agreed that the job will go to John Larkin QC, a Belfast barrister who specialises in civil law, including judicial review.

He has acted for several leading politicians in Northern Ireland throughout his career.

The Director of Public Prosecutions will continue to be responsible for prosecution policy, with the Attorney General having a consultative role but no powers of direction.

At present the Attorney General for England and Wales also acts as the Attorney General for Northern Ireland.

They will retain some functions relating to security matters in Northern Ireland and when acting in that capacity will be known as the Advocate General.

WILL THE ASSEMBLY BE ABLE TO CREATE NEW CRIMINAL OFFENCES?

Yes, however they will not be able to alter laws on terrorist offences or the classification of illegal drugs.

They will be able to introduce tougher penalties for existing offences.

HOW WILL ALL THIS BE PAID FOR?

At present the policing and justice budget is controlled by the Northern Ireland Office.

In future, that money will be included in the block grant that Westminster gives to the Northern Ireland Executive.

It will then be down to the Executive to choose how to spend that money.

The Westminster government has already promised extra financial help for the Executive to deal with "legacy costs" such as compensation claims from police officers who damaged their hearing during firearms training.



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