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Summary

  1. The Culture Committee received a briefing from Libraries NI on a transfer of functions.
  2. In the afternoon, PSNI Chief Constable, George Hamilton, and Deputy Chief Constable, Drew Harris, briefed members of the Justice Committee on the police’s budget and funding issues.
  3. Brendan McGuigan, the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, also briefed members on its follow-up report of Maghaberry Prison in January 2016.
  4. Mr McGuigan’s briefing was followed by evidence from Sue McAllister, Director General of the NI Prison Service, and Maghaberry prison governor, Phil Wragg.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Brooke Allen

All times stated are UK

  1. Good night

    Alastair Ross adjourns the meeting.

    Join us from 12:00 GMT on Monday when there will be plenty of legislation passing through the Assembly including the consideration stage of the Licensing Bill and the final stage of the Assembly and Executive Reform Bill. 

  2. 'Maghaberry not broken'

    Phil Wragg

    Phil Wragg, the governor of Maghaberry prison, says he has been asked by people if the prison is broken.

    "It is not," he says.

    "We're on a journey that looks at stabilisation of resources and we're part of the way through that journey at the moment.

    "We've got a long way to go. It's going to take time."

  3. No extra money for Stakeknife investigation

    Vincent Kearney

    BBC News NI Home Affairs Correspondent

    Stakeknife

    No additional money will be available to police to investigate the alleged activities of the Army agent known as Stakeknife, the chief constable earlier told the Justice Committee.  

    The investigation could cost £35m and is expected to take at least five years, at an estimated cost of £7m per year.  

  4. 'There's still a lot to do'

    Mr Ross asks Ms McAllister if she thinks the report is a reflection of where Maghaberry Prison is at the moment. 

    Ms McAllister says there was a "very short time" between inspection and the re-inspection" 

    "There's still a lot to do," she adds.

  5. 'A sense of hope'

    Sue McAllister

    Members of the senior management of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) arrive to brief the committee on the CJINI follow-up report.

    Director-general Sue McAllister says she was struck by Mr McGuigan's comments that he left the prison with "a sense of hope and that all that could have been achieved within the time had been achieved".

  6. Outpatient waiting lists increase in last year

    Outpatient Waiting Lists

    The number of people waiting for a first outpatient appointment has increased by nearly 37% in a year, according to Department of Health figures.  

    In December 2015, there were 236,365 people on waiting lists, compared to 171,866 the year before while the number of people waiting more than 18 weeks for a first outpatient appointment has more than doubled.  

  7. 'A significant failure of leadership'

    Raymond McCartney

    Sinn Féin's Raymond McCartney says that in terms of any organisation "if there is a significant failure of leadership then how's it going to work?". 

    Mr McGuigan says that "if in any public service delivery organisation if the leadership isn't there, you know, for me it becomes like a rudderless ship".

  8. Mental health

    Sammy Wilson

    The DUP's Sammy Douglas asks whether there have been improvements in the provision for mental health.

    Mr McGuigan gives the example of two prisoners who clearly had mental health problems.

    "The care and compassion that was shown to them by the staff was amazing, but they needed more than that," he says.

    Mr McGuigan says that mental health needs have grown since the original CJINI inspection in 2015.

    "The needs were more acute of some of those who were actually there," he says.

  9. Marks out of 10

    Maghaberry Prison

    Alastair Ross asks Mr McGuigan if it was correct that when asked to give Maghaberry a score out of 10 he had given it a three or four.

    "That's right," Mr McGuigan replies.

  10. CJINI follow-up inspection of Maghaberry Prison

    Brendan McGuigan

    Mr Brendan McGuigan, the chief inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland (CJINI), begins briefing the committee on the summary report of the follow-up inspection of Maghaberry Prison in January 2016.

    Inspectors last year branded Maghaberry prison unsafe and unstable 

    The follow-up report, published on Wednesday, said the leadership team within the prison has been strengthened since they visited last year and that the situation has stabilised and improved

    Mr McGuigan says the inspectors found evidence of progress but "this progress was fragile".

    "Maghaberry simply cannot regress again," he adds. 

  11. Electoral equation changes for shrinking Stormont

    Mark Devenport

    BBC News NI Political Editor

    Parliament Buildings

    Earlier this week, MLAs passed legislation that will reduce their numbers to five per constituency.

    But as the official report of their debate shows, they were somewhat in the dark about what this would mean for the future overall size of the Northern Ireland Assembly.

    The politicians exchanged estimates that varied from a 75-strong chamber to one with 90 legislators.

    The day after the debate we got a bit more certainty, with the Boundary Commission for Northern Ireland announcing a new review that will reduce the number of parliamentary seats from 18 to 17.

    Read more

  12. Policing with the community

    Bronwyn McGahan

    Sinn Féin's Bronwyn McGahan asks about policing with the community. 

    The chief constable says "it doesn't matter how big the budget cut is, policing with the community is our way of thinking, and I don't think we've got there yet completely". 

    He says it is an ethos that includes "fairness, courtesy, respect accountability, collaborative decision-making, working in partnership".

  13. A line under the past?

    Mr Kennedy says that the chief constable is on record recently as having called for a debate on legacy issues.

    "There is quite a bit of concern from victims and families of victims," he adds.

    Mr Hamilton says he wants "to put the record straight."

    He says that in the course of an hour-long media interview, he was asked one question about whether he thought "a line should be drawn under the past".

    "I said that was a political decision. I thought it was a debate that needed to be had," he says.

  14. Police station closures

    Danny Kennedy

    Ulster Unionist Danny Kennedy asks about police station closures.

    "We don't go into reducing the police estate lightly," Mr Hamilton says.

    "I have asked for a personal briefing to assure myself of the process and of the management of the consequences at community level," he adds.

  15. British government funding

    Mr Lynch asks the chief constable whether he sees the funding of legacy investigations coming from the British government.

    "I have made it clear that funding of policing is actually a political issue," Mr Hamilton replies.

    He says that whether it comes from Whitehall or from Northern Ireland sources "is for others to agree upon. I haven't been drawn upon that previously".

  16. Legacy issues

    Séan Lynch

    Sinn Féin's Seán Lynch asks how much legacy issues affect the police budget.

    Deputy Chief Constable Drew Harris says the figure is "in the order of approximately £10m", including the investigations branch with its 48 investigators.

  17. Fresh Start Agreement

    Money

    The chief constable says that "on a slightly more positive note" the police recognise that they do have a "significant budget of £700m" to do their job of keeping people safe.

    Mr Hamilton says the police "are actually grateful for the decisions that the executive took in the Fresh Start Agreement where there was a degree of protection for the police budget". 

  18. 'Deeper cuts'

    Mr Hamilton says that "we can only achieve a balanced budget in 2016-17 by applying a cut in the region of 10% to non-pay costs".

    "We need to cut even deeper into non-staff budgets," he says.

  19. 'Almost 1,000 fewer police officers'

    George Hamiton

    Mr Hamilton says there has been a reduction of almost 1,000 police officers in 2010-14, a 12% reduction in headcount.

    He says this "mirrors reductions in police headcounts across the UK" and is similar to reductions in the Irish police, the Garda.

    The chief constable says that in the period 2011-14 the PSNI has seen a £217.3m reduction in its budget.

  20. Justice Committee

    Alastair Ross

    The DUP's Alastair Ross is in the chair for this afternoon's meeting.

    PSNI Chief Constable George Hamilton is briefing members on the police’s budget and funding issues.

    Brendan McGuigan, the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland, will brief members on its follow-up report of Maghaberry Prison.