Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Committee on the Administration of Justice

  Thank you very much for your letter of 12 February and for the concern for fairness that underlies it. While I know that it is normally not possible to get hold of statements made to the Committee until the final report is published, it is clearly difficult to respond to criticisms that we have not seen. Unfortunately, no-one else has had the courtesy to draw these criticisms of CAJ to our attention. I would be most appreciative if you could forward me all relevant documentation.

  In the meantime, let me try and respond to your concerns. First, it is probably worth noting in passing that limited resources mean that it is often difficult for CAJ to actively engage on all the issues the Committee addresses. We have, for example, been very active on the marching issue, and have had observers out regularly each year monitoring the police treatment of marchers and protesters, but we were unable to actively engage in a study you undertook into that issue.

  However, in the particular instance of your inquiry into relocation following paramilitary intimidation, our lack of involvement was not constrained by resources, but because it falls largely out-with our remit. I enclose the relevant extract of CAJ's statute and you will see that the work of the organisation (since our inception in 1981) is focused on the administration of justice, and the international standards pertaining thereto. While we are totally opposed to the use of violence for political ends, our work is focused on the State's responsibility to meet its international human rights obligations. While the nature of this work often exposes us to information that may be relevant to your study, we can claim no particular expertise. Thus, for example, we recently received a number of representations from different individuals and organisations on the Shankill Road about the inadequacy of the State's response to the loyalist violence. We were informed of a number of very serious complaints about the reaction of the police to paramilitary intimidation and of the slowness in reaction generally by the statutory services. However, we directed complainants to bodies that can most immediately assist them—the Police Ombudsman's Office, the Housing Executive etc. We assume that the Committee has accessed this kind of information directly, and CAJ therefore had few helpful insights to offer.

  By insisting on the highest standards in the State's administration of justice, we hope to contribute to bringing about a society in which abuses by paramilitary groups (and indeed others—abusive partners, discriminating employers etc) will not occur. However, it is not CAJ's remit to work directly on the problems posed to society by such bodies. While we are very aware that some people try to suggest that this implies an inherent bias on our part, we refute this entirely. Should anyone require further information about our stance, we would be more than happy to respond in more detail. In the meantime, I look forward to studying the testimony closely.

20 February 2001

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