Page last updated at 16:52 GMT, Tuesday, 3 July 2012 17:52 UK

Criminal Justice Bill: Second stage

Justice Minister David Ford assured MLAs that "public protection continues to be the driving force" as the Criminal Justice Bill reached its second reading, on 3 July 2012.

The minister explained that the bill covered three areas of criminal law; the sex offenders register, human trafficking, and fingerprints and DNA profiling.

Changes to the regulations regarding "indefinite notification" under the sex offenders register were required by a ruling of the Supreme Court that the regulations were not in compliance with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The bill aimed to introduce new offences in connection with human trafficking in line with European legislation.

The minister said there would be no sexual slavery if men were not prepared to pay for the services the victims provided.

He outlined proposed changes to the law on retention of DNA profiles and fingerprints made necessary by a judgement of the European Court of Human Rights.

The existing law allowed the police to retain indefinitely the DNA and fingerprints of anyone arrested for a recordable offence, whether found guilty or not, Mr Ford explained.

The chairman of the justice committee, Paul Givan of the DUP, said its members supported the creation of new offences around human trafficking, but he questioned whether the proposals constituted a "minimalist approach".

"Human trafficking is a scourge on society," he added.

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney was concerned that the proposals on DNA and fingerprinting would mean that the presumption of innocence remained under threat.

His party "would have concerns that this database is constantly growing," the MLA for Foyle said.

Ross Hussey of the UUP noted that the first conviction in Northern Ireland for human trafficking had occurred in April 2012.

Stewart Dickson of the Alliance Party saw a need for legislation that "strikes an appropriate balance" between the rights of the individual and protection for the community.

The DUP's Lord Morrow called for a separate bill on human trafficking and for legislation against forced begging.

The bill passed its second reading on an oral vote.


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