There is close and ongoing North-South co-operation in criminal justice and policing, involving regular interaction and joint working at ministerial and official level in respect of policy and between the police services and criminal justice agencies in respect of operational activities.
What is the Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters (IGA)?
The Intergovernmental Agreement on Co-operation on Criminal Justice Matters (IGA) was signed by the two Governments on 26 July 2005. A new Agreement was signed in April 2010 to allow for the continuation of existing co-operation following the devolution of policing and justice powers to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The IGA provides a structured framework to enhance and develop more effective co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters between the two jurisdictions.
Under the new Agreement there are regular Ministerial Meetings to:
- discuss criminal justice matters of mutual interest or concern in the two jurisdictions
- consider the scope for, and develop plans to achieve, more effective co-operation and co-ordination on criminal justice matters between the two jurisdictions
- oversee and give direction to the work of the Working Group
- approve and periodically review progress against the annual work programmes on criminal justice co-operation.
The Agreement also established a Working Group of senior officials comprising representatives of the Department, the NI Department of Justice and criminal justice agencies from both jurisdictions.
Its remit is to support the ministerial meetings, take forward current co-operation and identify other areas in which co-operation on criminal justice matters could be enhanced or initiated. The Working Group meets twice yearly and is attended by the heads of the respective Probation Services, Youth Justice Agencies and Forensic Science Services, along with senior officials and representatives of the two police forces.
Project Advisory Groups
Six sub-groups, called Project Advisory Groups, have now been established, to promote cooperation on:
- forensic science
- registered sex offenders
- probation and rehabilitation
- victim support
- youth justice matters, and
- criminal justice social diversity.
In addition to the work of the Project Advisory Groups mentioned above, Ministerial meetings under the Agreement also provide an opportunity to maintain contact and exchange information on other criminal justice initiatives taking place in both jurisdictions.
Outside of the formal framework of the IGA there is regular North-South co-operation on other criminal justice policy areas including, for example, efforts to combat human trafficking.
This North-South co-operation has also been aimed at supporting the peaceful political settlement arrived at under the Good Friday Agreement and taking actions to give effect to that Agreement, addressing issues such as arms decommissioning, remembrance and the recovery of the Disappeared.