Bar warns political impasse hurting justice policy and lawyers

The lack of a functioning Northern Ireland Executive is having an impact on long-term justice policy development and on legal practitioners, The Bar of Northern Ireland has said.

In a submission to Westminster’s Northern Ireland Affairs Committee, the Bar said it was “vitally important that the political parties reconvene in 2018 with the aim of working towards an agreement to allow an Executive to be former in order to restore local decision making, long term planning and accountability”.

It said the political impasse “is preventing timely decisions being taken in the long-term interests of Northern Ireland’s justice system”.

The submission also points out that a number of policy initiatives being pursued by Justice Minister Claire Sugden have since “stalled with no Minister in post and Departmental officials unable to continue”.

The Bar also insisted that it “would not be appropriate in the absence of an Assembly to assume that legal aid policies in existence in other parts of the UK should be transposed to Northern Ireland”.

It explained: “There are a number of different reasons for this, including the differing demographic and social pressures in NI and the existence of significant differences in our legal system.”