Page last updated at 17:19 GMT, Thursday, 10 November 2011

Justice Committee

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A prison service official confirmed that there would be no positive discrimination in the recruitment of new officers, on 10 November 2011.

Officials were briefing the assembly's justice committee on the prison service exit scheme.

Ronnie Armour told members he was optimistic that the exit programme launched earlier in the week would receive a positive response from prison officers.

Replying to a question from the DUP's Jim Wells on whether there would be a 50/50 recruiting policy, as in the case of the police, Mr Armour said it would be "a standard recruitment process based on civil service best practice".

Earlier, members had a briefing from the attorney general on the allocation of two counsel in legal criminal legal aid cases.

John Larkin QC briefed the committee in the light of the justice minister's withdrawal of a new set of draft rules.

The decision on whether to allocate one or two counsel is made during committal hearings in the magistrates court.

Mr Larkin explained that the present system allows for the granting of two counsel in murder cases and cases of exceptional difficulty.

He outlined a number of objections to the proposals contained in the draft rules.

The committee decided to write to the minister expressing its views on how the matter should be advanced.

Jim Wells said that at the very least magistrates should be required to give their reasons for their granting two counsel.

Justice committee membership

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