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Plenary Meeting Minutes: 2003

 

MINUTES OF THE PLENARY MEETING OF THE SENTENCE REVIEW COMMISSIONERS HELD ON 12 DECEMBER 2003

Commissioners:

Sir John Blelloch

Mr Brian Currin

Dr Peter Curran

Mr Ian Dunbar

Mrs Mary Gilpin

Mr Donal McFerran

Dr Silvia Casale

Dr Adrian Grounds

Apologies:

Dr Duncan Morrow; Ms Clodach McGrory

Secretariat: Mr Brian McCready: Miss Tracy O'Halloran

•  The minutes of the meeting held on 15 September 2003 were agreed.

•  The Northern Ireland Audit Office had completed their assessment and reported that the Commissioners' Office met the required standards. Now that the audit was over, the Secretariat undertook to request an itemised account of Counsel's bill for recent advice given.

•  The Joint Chairmen had had a meeting with the PUS. There were no current plans to amalgamate with the Life Sentence Review Commissioners. The SRC would continue to operate and there would be a further meeting in twelve months time.

•  Dr Casale's paper on panel methodology relating to “damaging” information was discussed. It was agreed that Dr Casale, along with Sir John and Mr Dunbar would consider all the points raised in the discussion and circulate a revised draft in due course.

•  Commissioners resolved that before the next judicial review is heard, the Commissioners should meet with their legal representatives to agree how the case should best be handled.

•  Because of concerns about special advocate procedures and “damaging” information, Commissioners considered the offer of an invitation to the next plenary meeting to a QC from the Immigration Appeals Committee to explain how the problems are dealt with there.

•  As Commissioners need to maintain a current knowledge of developments in HR jurisprudence, it was suggested that Ms McGrory, subject to her agreement, would scrutinise all new HR judgements and those considered relevant could be circulated.

•  Commissioners were updated on the current caseload and discussed how cases subject to judicial review and/or appeal should be handled.

•  As concerns were raised in relation to the overlap between the SRC and LSRC it was agreed that the LSRC should be kept informed about how the SRC were handling cases that would ultimately transfer to the LSRC.

•  The Publication Scheme, as required by the Freedom of Information Act, has now been formally approved by the Information Commissioners. However, because of a change in the relevant legislation, it need not be re-submitted until 2008.

•  The next plenary was confirmed for 12 March 2004.

15 December 2003


MINUTES OF THE PLENARY MEETING OF THE SENTENCE REVIEW COMMISSIONERS HELD ON MONDAY 15 SEPTEMBER 2003

Commissioners: Sir John Blelloch, Mr Brian Currin, Dr Peter Curran, Mr Ian Dunbar, Mrs Mary Gilpin, Mr Donal McFerran, Dr Duncan Morrow, Dr Adrian Grounds

Apologies: Dr Silvia Casale, Ms Clodach McGrory

Secretariat: Mr Brian McCready, Mrs Deirdre McMahon

•  The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and approved for publication.

•  As the Information Commissioners had approved the draft Publication Scheme in principle, it was agreed that formal approval for publication should be sought in the New Year.

•  Commissioners were made aware that a letter regarding two of their cases had appeared in the local Press but had raised no issues about which the Commissioners need be concerned.

•  Commissioners were informed that a prisoner had lodged an appeal against the decision of the Court to uphold the substantive determination of the Commissioners in his judicial review. The Commissioners' legal advisors said that although the appeal had not been lodged within the time permitted it would probably be allowed to proceed. If so, the Commissioners would be consulted about the nature and timing of their response.

•  Judge Coghlin's judgement in that case should be examined to see whether, and to what extent, it had addressed the Human Rights issues regarding Commissioners' handling and consideration of “damaging” information.

•  Commissioners were content that the tabled draft Aide-Memoire provided a quick reference guide to their procedures in handling “damaging” information. However, it was decided that an additional note on the process by which they effectively tested the reliability and value of a source, and the probity of the source information, should be added.

•  Commissioners were given an update on the two remaining cases. One prisoner had dispensed with the services of his solicitor, but was now having difficulty securing other legal representation. Under Rule 5(4) of the Commissioners' powers the Secretariat would seek advice from Lifer Governors at HMP Maghaberry as to the need to intervene and assist in obtaining appropriate representation for him. In the other case the prisoner's solicitors had been given approval to submit further papers and were now seeking approval for him to be examined by a forensic psychiatrist.

•  The dates of the next meetings were confirmed as Friday 12 December 2003 and Monday 15 March 2004.

19 September 2003


MINUTES OF THE PLENARY MEETING OF THE SENTENCE REVIEW COMMISSIONERS HELD ON TUESDAY 3 JUNE 2003

Commissioners: Sir John Blelloch, Mr Brian Currin, Dr Peter Curran, Mr Ian Dunbar, Mrs Mary Gilpin, Mr Donal McFerran, Ms Clodach McGrory, Dr Duncan Morrow

Apologies: Dr Silvia Casale, Dr Adrian Grounds ,

Secretariat: Mr Brian McCready, Mrs Sheena McKittrick

•  The minutes of the previous meeting were agreed and approved for publication.

•  Following referral of the Commissioners' draft Publication Scheme to the Information Commissioners, they were informed that the Freedom of Information Act did not require it to be in place until February 2004, therefore could not be approved at this time. However, they were told that the scheme would likely be approved at that time so could be published on the Website now, provided it was clearly identified as being a draft. Commissioners agreed this should now be done.

•  After discussion, Commissioners agreed that the invoice submitted by Counsel for the recent legal advice given on application of the Human Rights Act should not be paid until a breakdown of the fees had been supplied.

•  Commissioners were informed that the two cases that were subject to judicial review had now been concluded. In one case, the Court ruled that the applicant was no longer eligible under the early release scheme and the application was therefore dismissed. In the other case, the Court upheld the substantive determination of the Commissioners and dismissed the application.

•  As a result of the endorsement of their procedures at judicial review, it was agreed that the Commissioners should produce a document showing their code of practice for handling information certified as “damaging” by the Secretary of State.

•  Commissioners were given updates on the remaining two cases and informed that a third application had recently been received but was incomplete and had to be returned to the applicant. This application named one of the Commissioners as a potential witness but as the decision of any panel of Commissioners is deemed to be the decision of the Commissioners as a whole, it was agreed that the appearance of a Commissioner as a witness for the applicant would not be appropriate.

•  The dates of the next meetings were confirmed as Monday 15 September and Friday 12 December 2003.

Secretariat

6 June 2003