Collaborative working, contingency planning and timely decision making have been the key to ensuring the continued delivery of justice in Northern Ireland during the Covid-19 emergency.
That was the message from Minister Naomi Long as she paid tribute to all involved in the wider justice family for the way in which they have responded to the ongoing and unprecedented health emergency.
Speaking after chairing the Criminal Justice Board, Naomi Long said: “We are all navigating our way through what are exceptional times. It’s an old adage to say that the wheels of justice turn slowly but, during this crisis, that has never been further from the truth.
“Time and again, I have been impressed by the work ethic, collaborative approach and ‘can do’ attitude of the wider justice family as they have worked together to find practical and agile solutions in the fast-moving and ever changing landscape created by the Covid-19 crisis.
“The innovative use of technology has ensured the delivery of justice is maintained while safeguarding staff and members of the public. This has brought with it significant learning of how we may perhaps use technology to greater effect in the future.
“Every step of the way, PHA guidance has been followed and decisions have been made at the right time to maximum effect to ensure continued safety measures are in place for staff, service users and members of the public.
“Some of those decisions have been difficult; from reducing court locations and listing emergency business only, to reducing our prison population through a temporary release scheme.
“Every decision has been taken in a calm and considered way and it is this approach which has ensured that, at every stage, the integrity of the justice system has remained intact.
“This would not have been possible without strong and effective contingency planning and continued collaboration between the wider justice family.”
The Justice Minister added "I want to put on record my thanks to everyone working within the justice system. Each and every one of them is going above and beyond to keep people safe and ensure services are delivered both in the background and on the front line..
“Working together in this way and reflecting on what we have learned throughout this unprecedented period, can only make our justice system more agile in the months and years ahead.”
Notes to editors:
1. The Criminal Justice Board is the main strategic oversight group for the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. The Board is chaired by the Justice Minister and members include the Lord Chief Justice, Sir Declan Morgan; the Chief Constable, Simon Byrne; the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron; and the Permanent Secretary for the Department of Justice, Peter May.
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