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8 November 2001 Edition

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Delay in criminal justive review unacceptable

Sinn Féin Criminal Justice spokesperson, Mitchel Mc Laughlin has called on John Reid to publish the Criminal Justice Review Draft Legislation without further delay.

"We have been waiting for almost two years for the British Government to publish its review of the Criminal Justice system here," said the Sinn Féin National Chairperson. "To date we have no indication as to the British Secretary of States timetable for publication of his Draft Legislation.

"Following the groundbreaking move by the IRA recently - John Reid listed the changes that the British government claim to have instituted since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement. In the list he included the Criminal Justice Review but failed to point out that like most of the other commitments made by the British government, it has failed to publish either its intentions or a timetable for legislation on this crucial issue.

"As has been evident with demilitarisation, human rights and policing, it seems that the British government is dragging its feet on restructuring Criminal Justice here.

"Resistance from within senior levels of the Six-County judiciary and from the unionist political leadership seems to dictate the speed with which this British government is willing to move rather than the rightness of the issue.

"At the time the Review Group offered up its recommendations, Sinn Féin acknowledged that it contained a number of interesting elements but it failed to address many of the more serious issues.

"We have been given a number of dates for publication of the Plan and Draft Legislation - none of which where adhered to. Junior British Minister Des Browne was the latest person to announce just this week that his government would publish its intentions - in the near future.

"It is a fact that good policing and good administration of Criminal Justice are inextricably linked. Could it be that John Reid believes that by waiting long enough, people will have forgotten the shambles his government made of the policing issue that they won't notice the inadequacy of what he intends to foist on them as a new beginning to the administration of justice?

"Or is he hoping that, as with the Police Bill, that some political parties will accept less than their entitlements and once more sell their constituents short?

"A genuine opportunity now exists to transform the Criminal Justice system so that nationalists and republicans along with the rest of society can identify with it. The British government should not allow this issue to deteriorate in the manner it succeeded in doing with the policing debate. Change must be genuine and transparent and it needs to begin now."

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