The Northern Ireland Law Commission (the Commission) is currently non-operational but it was established in 2007 following the recommendations of the Criminal Justice Review Group. The Commission is established under the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002 (as amended by the Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Devolution of Policing and Justice Functions) Order 2010) with the Law Commission reviewing areas of the law and making recommendations for reform. The Commission's duty is to ensure that the law is as simple, accessible , fair, modern and cost-effective as possible. A number of specific types of reform are covered by the provisions in the 2002 Act (as amended):
- Simplification and modernisation
- The elimination of anomalies
- Repeal of legislation which is no longer of practical utility
- Reduction of the number of separate legislative provisions.
In addition the Act requires the Commission to consider any proposals for the reform of law of Northern Ireland referred to it. The Commission must submit to the Department of Justice programmes for the examination of different branches of the law with a view to reform. The Department of Justice must consult the Attorney General for Northern Ireland before approving any programme submitted by the Commission.
The Department of Justice must consult with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland before approving any programme prepared by the Commission which includes examination of any branch of law relating in whole or in part to a reserved or excepted matter or the consolidation or repeal of any legislation which relates in whole or in part to a reserved or excepted matter.
Purpose and Mission statement of the NI Law Commission
The establishment of an independent Law Commission in Northern Ireland formed part of the (positive) political and constitutional developments underway in Northern Ireland. The aim was to provide the Department of Justice with recommendations on law reform which would contribute to a legal system in Northern Ireland which is just, accessible, effective and modern. In taking forward this task the Commission is establishing itself as a body that puts forward robust, workable and timely proposals for improving the law and its practice in Northern Ireland. This emphasis on achieving practicable outcomes is an important value defining the work of the Commission.
When operational the Commission generally began projects with a scoping paper. The purpose of this was to consider how extensive the project should be, find out the key issues as seen by others, and identify interested parties. This early process can involve considerable work with stakeholders. This was followed by publication of a consultation paper setting out the law as it currently stands, perceived weaknesses/defects in the law and its operation and possible options for reform. During the consultation period views of interested parties were actively sought with meetings held across Northern Ireland to ensure a balance of views.
Responses to public consultations were analysed and the Commission took careful account of responses as part of its final considerations. A Report with recommendations and, where appropriate, draft legislation, was presented to the Department of Justice and published. It was then for the Department of Justice and the Northern Ireland Administration to decide whether it accepts the recommendations and to introduce any necessary Bill in Northern Ireland
Under the Justice (NI) Act 2002 the Commission is an independent advisory, non-departmental public body (NDPB). The Department of Justice is the sponsoring Department.
When operational the Commission consists of a Chairman, who must hold the office of judge of the High Court, and four Commissioners, one of whom must be a person from outside the legal professions. The Department of Justice must consult with the First Minister and deputy First Minister and the Attorney General for Northern Ireland before making the appointments. The Chairman and Commissioners are appointed on a part-time basis.
Relationship with other law reform bodies
In performing its duties the Commission must consult with the Law Commission (England and Wales), the Scottish Law Commission and the Law Reform Commission of the Republic of Ireland.
What we do not do
We would like to point out that it is not part of our role to investigate complaints about solicitors or government departments or to give legal advice to individuals. The Law Society of Northern Ireland or a solicitor should be contacted for help in this regard. Alternatively, a Citizens Advice Bureau may be able to offer initial guidance. In addition, we cannot help with student assignments.
Making a complaint about the Northern Ireland Law Commission.