UNIONISTS ANGRY AT LAW REFORMS; 300 Changes Are Proposed
Crossey, Neil, The Mirror (London, England)
UNIONISTS have been left fuming at far-reaching reforms to the legal system revealed yesterday in a Government blueprint.
The Criminal Justice Review Group, set up under the Good Friday Agreement, has recommended just under 300 changes to criminal law procedures.
The recommendations include the setting up of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, greater cross-border co-operation and the prevention of police being able to bring lesser offences to the courts.
Key recommendations such as an end to Crown emblems in courtrooms and the scrapping of judges' oath of allegiance to the Queen, have been widely condemned by unionists.
Lagan Valley MP Jeffrey Donaldson claimed the proposals are slanted against the unionist community.
"Publication of this new report with its bias towards republicans is just going to undermine unionist confidence further.
"I believe the review will have the same impact as the Patten policing report and it could be extremely damaging at this very sensitive time," he said.
SDLP Assembly Member Alex Attwood welcomed the report, saying an overhaul of the judicial system was long overdue.
"The SDLP believes that it is time to modernise the administration of criminal justice to best serve the people of Northern Ireland and to make it accountable, representative and progressive," he said.
The West Belfast MLA did, however, express concern that the reforms do not go far enough.
"This may not be the giant leap forward that the SDLP would have wished, but it can be a major step forward if it is implemented quickly and with the re-working of some details. …