Ford says justice challenges remain

Ford says justice challenges remain

The Justice Minister said real progress has been made in the criminal justice system, despite two months of disorder across Northern Ireland.

David Ford spoke on Wednesday, just over 1,000 days since justice was devolved to the Assembly and he took up his ministerial position.

Mr Ford is currently around half way through his term as Justice Minister and he hopes to see continued reforms in the next thousand days.

"We will see more progressing being made in a way which builds on those achievements. We obviously have a lot to do around continuing the prison reform programme.

"We need to tackle the issue of civil legal costs, because there's a real issue there," he said.

Disorder which broke out following flag protests across Northern Ireland has continued for more than eight weeks.

Police revealed more than 100 of their officers were injured in the unrest, and close to 180 people have been arrested.

The Minister described the recent unrest as a "challenge".

"We've to be clear that those challenges remain," he said.

"The police have a very significant team working, reviewing evidence, picking up those who perhaps thought that they were getting away with their activities and street disturbances. There's an extensive team reviewing that work, continuing to chase people up.

"I was told, for example, of two young men who were arrested yesterday, who between them have admitted to two dozen separate offences which they were immediately identified for, because the quality of the evidence is so good," said the Minister.

"I think there's a real lesson for a lot of people, they may find the police knocking their door and they might be better going admitting what they have done first."

PSNI Chief Constable Matt Baggott also commented on the ongoing work of the Department of Justice.

He said despite the violence that has erupted on streets across the region, public confidence in policing continues to rise.

"I would not want to see the last eight weeks in any way undermine the achievements of devolution.

"We've got really low crime levels now. We've got opportunities for young people to grow up in communities without the fear of anti social behaviour," said the Chief Constable.

"Even attacks on the elderly, that awful thing, has started to fall quite significantly. Let's not underestimate the achievements by getting out of context the events of the last eight weeks.

"It has been a very difficult time, the last two months. There are clearly lots of grievances that need to be aired."

© UTV

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