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Summary

  1. MLAs debated the further consideration stage of the Justice Bill. It aims to make a number of changes to the law in relation to the administration of civil and criminal justice.
  2. The Mental Capacity Bill passed its second stage.
  3. The Legal Complaints and Regulation Bill passed its second stage.
  4. Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy and Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill appeared at Question Time.

Live Reporting

By Robin Sheeran and Laura Trueman

All times stated are UK

Assembly adjourned

That's all for tonight.

We'll be back in the morning at 10am when we will be covering the Finance Minister, Arlene Foster, giving a briefing to the Finance Committee on the Budget Bill.

Amendment seven moved

The DUP's Edwin Poots moves his amendment.

The speaker, Mitchel McLaughlin, says business cannot continue tonight as a valid petition of concern was tabled earlier today.

He says this means that no vote can be taken until at least one day after it has been presented.

Today's unfinished business will be completed next Monday 22 June.

'Flawed'

Justice Minister David Ford responds to the debate on the second group of amendments tabled at the further consideration stage of the Justice Bill.

He says that crimes against older people "are abhorrent" but he says he does not want them to become more fearful of their safety.

He says amendment seven is "flawed", "will not work" and is "unnecessary".

Givan on amendment

Paul Givan
BBC

Paul Givan of the DUP speaks on amendment seven, which he has brought along with his party colleague Edwin Poots.

He says he does not accept Miss Sugden's criticisms.

"Whenever we consider the cases of those elderly people who have been attacked, I think it's right that we respond," he says.

'Stupid and ill-informed'

Claire Sugden
BBC

Independent MLA Claire Sugden says she has signed her first petition of concern in relation to amendment seven, describing it as "stupid and ill-informed".

She says she normally feels that this method is an "abuse of democracy" but in this case she feels it is necessary to "limit people who think they know better".

Miss Sugden says if the DUP members who brought it "really meant it" they would have brought it at the bill's consideration stage.

'A stunt'

Basil McCrea
BBC

Basil McCrea of N121 describes the DUP amendments as a "stunt" as "they will change relatively nothing".

He says amendment seven in particular "gives no detail".

'Foolish and wrong'

Jim Allister
BBC

The TUV's Jim Allister criticises those who "think they know better than the judges on legal issues".

He says amendment seven is "foolish and wrong".

'Surprised'

Edwin Poots
BBC

The DUP's Edwin Poots says he has been "surprised" by the petition of concern tabled in relation to his amendment, describing it as an abuse of this particular process.

He says it seeks to protect "elderly and vulnerable people in our community who have been the subject of violent attacks".

'Lenient sentences'

Tom Elliott
BBC

Tom Elliott of the UUP says "many people are outraged by the often lenient sentences that are handed out by the courts".

Stewart Dickson of Alliance says he believes that amendment seven "would make for bad law".

'Mandatory nature'

Alban Maginness
BBC

The SDLP's Alban Maginness says the DUP amendment raises questions about other categories of vulnerable people, such as those with learning difficulties, and those with mental health difficulties.

He says his party's opposition is "in essence, to the mandatory nature of the sentence".

Further consideration

Raymond McCartney
BBC

Sinn Fein's Raymond McCartney says his party backs amendment six on community service for early-release prisoners, but is opposed to amendment seven on the minimum sentence.

He expresses concern at the introduction of the amendment after the committee stage.

"This type of clause, the depth of it, the breadth of it, and perhaps the discussion of it, the further consideration stage is not the appropriate time to bring this in front of the Assembly".

Seven-year sentence

Mr Ross then turns to amendment seven, brought by his DUP colleagues, Paul Givan and Edwin Poots.

This calls for a seven-year minimum sentence for offenders found guilty of physical attack on a person aged 65, or over "unless the court is of the opinion that there are exceptional circumstances relating to the offence".

"The public are quite rightly outraged at these types of attacks against vulnerable members of our community," Mr Ross says.

Community Service

Alastair Ross
BBC

Justice Committee Chairman Alastair Ross begins the debate on the second group of amendments which relate to early release conditions and sentencing proposals

He explains the purpose of the amendment he is bringing.

Amendment six would require prisoners released early "to engage in unpaid community service for the remaining period of the fixed term they would have served but for their early release".

He says it is similar to a scheme operating in the Irish Republic.

'Co-operative'

The minister, David Ford, replies to the debate on the first group of amendments.

He says there exists between the Justice Committee, the minister and his officials - "a fairly co-operative arrangement given the difficult issues that we have to deal with".

'Blunt the effect'

Alban Maginness
BBC

Alban Maginness of the SDLP refers to some of the minister's amendments regarding committal reform.

He says that he hopes the proposed changes are not "some way to blunt the effect of the decision of the Assembly in relation to committal proceedings".

Stewart Dickson of Alliance says he commends the justice minister and his department for "maintaining a very steady and clear pace of reform".

Ulster Unionist Tom Elliott says he is "slightly concerned" that one amendment brought in the first group on committal reform will "weaken" an amendment brought by the TUV's Jim Allister and passed at the bill's consideration stage.

The TUV's Jim Allister says he does he think the minister is attempting to "dilute" his earlier amendment.

Petition of Concern

Roy Beggs
BBC

The deputy speaker, Roy Beggs, informs members that there has been a development - a petition of concern tabled to an amendment brought by the DUP in relation to sentencing for violent offences against older people.

Mr Beggs explains that the debate will continue but that decisions will only be taken up to amendment six.

He says the vote on amendment seven, if moved, will not take place today.

The deputy speaker adds that the scheduling of the rest of the stage "will have to be notified in due course" and that amendment seven will have to be taken on a cross-community basis.

Support

The DUP's Alastair Ross, who chairs the Justice Committee, says he supports the amendments in the group.

Raymond McCartney of Sinn Fein speaks about an amendment he has brought along with a number of party colleagues.

He says it had been put forward with the aim of removing the "unnecessary" process of sometimes having to give evidence twice.

Domestic violence

Mr Ford says some of the amendments in this group will, if passed, allow for the introduction of domestic violence protection notices and orders in Northern Ireland.

He says these will apply to those victims who have been assessed as being at risk of immediate harm and danger.

First group of amendments

David Ford
BBC

Justice Minister David Ford speaks on the first group of amendments which include those relating to committal reform, and to domestic violence and child protection.

He says they deal with matters raised at the bill's consideration stage.

Justice Bill

Deputy Speaker John Dallat
BBC
Deputy Speaker John Dallat

MLAs are beginning to debate the further consideration stage of the Justice Bill.

There are 22 amendments being proposed at this stage of the bill.

They will be discussed in three groups.

The second stage is passed

Arlene Foster replies to the debate, and the Legal Complaints and regulation Bill passes its second stage on an oral vote.

'Outdated'

Michaela Boyle
BBC

Michaela Boyle of Sinn Fein says the proposed legislation "will address the outdated complaints system that we have here".

Independent unionist John McCallister also says he is happy to back the bill.

'A good piece of legislation'

Alban Maginness
BBC

The SDLP's Alban Maginness, who is a barrister, also welcomes the proposed greater lay involvement in the regulation of the legal profession.

He says he believes barristers and solicitors are broadly supportive of the bill.

"We can look forward to a good piece of legislation which can enhance both branches of the profession," Mr Maginness says.

'A cartel'

Paul Girvan
BBC

Paul Girvan of the DUP says he hopes the bill will give confidence to those who believe there is "somewhat of a cartel" operated by barristers and solicitors.

He welcomes the introduction of the lay commissioner.

'Significant delay'

Daithi McKay
BBC

Sinn Fein's Daithi McKay, who chairs the Finance Committee, refers to the "significant delay" that has taken place since the publication of the Bain report.

He says the new system "needs to be easily accessible and transparent".

Oversight commissioner

Mrs Foster says the bill proposes a legal services oversight commissioner, who will be a layperson with powers broadly in line with those recommended by Bain.

"I believe that those powers will provide a proportionate and effective level of oversight," she says.

Bain report

The minister explains the need for the bill.

She says the legislation springs from recommendations made in the

Bain report of 2006, which called for reform of the complaints-handling system.

Mrs Foster says Prof Sir George Bain recommended "a copper-bottoming of procedures" - moving away from the practice of lawyers regulating lawyers.

Legal Complaint Bill

Arlene Foster
BBC

Finance Minister Arlene Foster opens the debate on the Legal Complaints and Regulation bill.

The bill concerns complaints against barristers and solicitors.

Bill passes second stage

The second stage of the Mental Capacity Bill passes on an oral vote.

The Budget (No.2) Bill also passes its first stage.

'Far-reaching'

Simon Hamilton
BBC

Health Minister Simon Hamilton says the "considered contributions" from members have shown that this is a bill which is "far-reaching" and will "touch upon the lives of a great number of people".

He cautions the committee about being "too radical" when proposing any changes to the current plans to exclude under-16s from the legislation.

'Accountability'

We return to the second stage of the Mental Capacity Bill.

Independent unionist John McCallister says the "core focus of scrutiny" should be to ensure that "the right legal frameworks" are in place.

Mr McCallister says this is to ensure that decision makers "acting on behalf of the state" will have the "ability, training and are accountable".

'A nonsense'

John McCallister
BBC

Independent unionist John McCallister asks the minister if she has been in contact with the Rural Payments Agency regarding possible problems with making single farm payments.

"What contingency plan is her department drawing up in light of a possible budgetary crisis?" he asks.

"I haven't had any discussions with the payments agency because I'm confident that I can make the payments," Mrs O'Neill replies.

"I don't think it's helpful to scaremonger," she adds.

"It's a nonsense to say single farm payments won't be paid."

Headquarters move

Leslie Cree
BBC

Ulster Unionist Leslie Cree asks the minister for an update on the proposed transfer of her department's headquarters.

Mrs O'Neill says the relocation involves four moves.

She says the fisheries division's transfer to Downpatrick took place last week.

The minister says the planning application for the department's main headquarters in Ballykelly has been made.

"So, it's hoped that planning approval will be granted by August," she says.

Mr Cree says the minster has proceeded "without a genuine business case", against the advice of her officials, and is clearly unconcerned about value for money.

Mrs O'Neill defends her decision, describing the "economic knock-on effect, the footfall for the rural areas, the build, the construction jobs that creates, all the benefits, a fair distribution of public sector jobs".

Agriculture questions

Michelle O'Neill
BBC

Agriculture Minister Michelle O'Neill is taking questions from members.

Grass cutting

Paul Girvan
BBC

The DUP's Paul Girvan asks the minister if there have been any lay-offs of staff due to the grass cutting policy of "one cut" this summer.

"This is hugely frustrating for staff throughout my department," Mr Kennedy says.

He confirms that there have not been any lay-offs.

Budget crisis

Stewart Dickson
BBC

Stewart Dickson of Alliance asks about the effect of the budget crisis on major capital projects, including the York Street interchange in Belfast.

The minister says "work is progressing well" on the project, and that a considerable amount of money has been set aside for the public inquiry, which begins on the 10 November 2015.

Mr Dickson asks the minister to consider dualling the adjacent railway crossing over the River Lagan.

"Clearly it would be sensible" that two projects would run alongside each other, the minister says, but he foresees "challenges" when it comes to financial priorities.

Railway development

Alex Easton
BBC

The DUP's Alex Easton asks the minister how he will redistribute funds to pay for Phase 2 of the Coleraine to Londonderry track renewal project.

Mr Kennedy says the project is "a key Programme for Government commitment".

He says that, at £46m, the signalling contract "is higher than originally envisaged" but reflects the current state of the market.

June monitoring

Ross Hussey
BBC

Ulster Unionist Ross Hussey asks the minister to outline his bids for the June monitoring round.

Mr Kennedy says he is currently facing cuts and funding pressures of £60m on his resource budget.

He says he has identified eight resource bids totalling £39.8m and 13 capital bids totalling £141.1m, which have been presented to the Department of Finance for June monitoring.

These include essential roads maintenance, street lighting, NI Water, concessionary fares, and the Translink efficiency programme.

Question Time

Danny Kennedy
BBC

Regional Development Minister Danny Kennedy is answering questions from MLAs.

'Add protection'

Pam Cameron
BBC

Pam Cameron of the DUP explains the new legislation will add protection and will no longer rely on the assumption that people with limited or restricted mental capacity cannot take responsibility for major life decisions.