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About the Department of Justice

The Department of Justice was established in April 2010, following the devolution of justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly.  David Ford was elected Minister of Justice by a cross-community vote in the Assembly and re-elected in May 2011.

Since being in office, David Ford has initiated a wide ranging programme of reform to reshape the justice system and to build a fair, just and safer community in Northern Ireland.

The reform programme will touch almost every aspect of the justice system and significant advances have already been made in reform of legal aid and the Prison Service.

But a reform programme on this scale cannot be achieved overnight and the Executive’s Programme for Government sets out what the Department of Justice will deliver by 2015.

While challenging, the delivery of these commitments will make a real difference to the community – whether that is tackling anti-social behaviour, reducing serious crime or by positively engaging with communities who live near interfaces.

Making the justice system both fairer and faster is a core part of the Minister’s vision for the community as are improvements in the way we support victims of crime.

The Department of Justice has reorganised to deliver the Minister’s vision of reform.

The Department has a range of powers relating to devolved policing and justice functions, set out in the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Devolution of Policing and Justice Functions) Order 2010.

It is responsible for the resourcing, legislative and policy framework of the justice system.

David Ford has set out a number of themes which encompass the key roles of the Department.

These are:

Safer, Shared Communities – working to help build communities with lower levels of crime and anti-social behaviour, where everyone’s rights are respected, including examining steps than can be taken to address problems at interfaces.

Faster, Fairer Justice – looking at how everyone in Northern Ireland has access to justice without undue delay, taking particular account of the needs of victims and witnesses and

Reformed Prisons and Youth Justice System – fundamental reform of the Prison Service and implementing the recommendations of the Youth Justice and Community Sentences reviews.

The Department of Justice has an annual Departmental Expenditure Limit of approximately £1.2 billion and is also committed to a number of  major capital build projects over the Budget 2011-15 period.  

It is headed by a Permanent Secretary and has three Directorates (PDF 12 KB) - Access to Justice, Safer Communities and Justice Delivery  to deliver on the Minister’s priorities.

The Department has four Agencies:

  • Northern Ireland Prison Service: The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) is an executive agency of the Department of Justice responsible for providing prison services in Northern Ireland. By working with prisoners and stakeholder organisations it also aims to reduce levels of re-offending.
  • Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service: The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is an executive agency of the Department of Justice. It provides administrative support to the Northern Ireland courts and tribunals, and to the Judiciary; enforces civil court judgments through the Enforcement of Judgments Office and sponsors the work of the Northern Ireland Legal Services Commission.
  • Forensic Science Agency: The Forensic Science Agency (FSNI) is an executive agency of the Department of Justice responsible for the provision of effective scientific advice and support to enhance the delivery of justice.
  • Youth Justice Agency: The Youth Justice Agency (YJA) is an executive agency of the Department of Justice responsible for preventing offending by children and young people through delivery of a range of community based, court ordered and diversionary interventions, youth conferencing and the provision of custody where necessary.

The Department also sponsors a number of Non-Departmental Public Bodies/bodies affiliated with policing and justice.