Page last updated at 15:41 GMT, Thursday, 27 September 2012 16:41 UK

Justice Committee

Six thousand police hearing loss cases have been dealt with by the Department of Justice (DoJ) at an average cost of £16,000 the Justice Committee was told, on 27 September 2012.

The legal claims by past and serving members of the RUC and PSNI relate to damaged hearing due to weapons training.

DoJ officials Anthony Harbison and Glynn Capper said there were a further 3,000 cases outstanding, and 970 had been settled in the past financial year.

Alban Maginness of the SDLP said it was "amazing really" and there were "a lot of deaf policemen".

Mr Harbison said fewer claims were being made and "we are now reaching the position where the bath is emptying faster than it is filling".

Earlier, DoJ official Amanda Patterson briefed the committee on parts of the Criminal Justice Bill regarding sex offender notifications.

She explained that, under the current legislation, sex offenders sentenced to 30 months or more of imprisonment were placed on the sex offenders register for an indefinite period, requiring them to inform the police of their whereabouts.

The Supreme Court had found the indefinite period to be contrary to the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights.

The proposals contained in the bill were designed to address this matter.

Ms Patterson outlined a number of other clauses of the bill dealing with matters such as cross-border co-operation in dealing with sex offenders.

David Hughes briefed the committee on parts of the bill dealing with the retention of fingerprints or DNA material by the police.

These changes were necessary in the light of a legal judgement.

This was a highly technical briefing detailing the circumstances under which the police could retain material beyond the usual time limits.

Public Prosecution Service (PPS) officials and members of the police (PSNI) briefed the committee on the Witness Care Unit project.

Pamela Atchison from the PPS explained that the idea was to address the difficulties of victims and witnesses who regarded the legal system as "alien and hostile".

She said the first unit was due to open on 1 November 2012 at the PPS headquarters in Belfast.

The role of the unit was to deliver services to the magistrates court, county court and youth court, Ms Atchison added.

The care unit project manager, Marie-Anne O'Kane, explained that the19 staff would be made up of both PPS and PSNI staff.

Justice committee membership


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