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Sinn Féin to meet British Minister on justice agenda

6 September, 2006

Sinn Féin spokespersons on Justice issues Gerry Kelly MLA and Aengus O'Snodaigh TD will meet with the British Direct Rule Minister Paul Goggins tomorrow as part of ongoing Sinn Féin's efforts to ensure policing and justice systems on the island are irreversibly transformed.

Sinn Féin MLA Gerry Kelly revealed that he had written to Mr Goggins during the summer raising concerns about proposals for excessive new powers for the PSNI and draft Codes relating to 28 day detention of individuals in the 6 counties. Sinn Féin will raise continuing concerns about the NIO's proposals and their incompatibility with obligations on human rights and equality. Mr Kelly also said that Sinn Fein will be raising its strong objections to the new proposal to introduce TASER electro-shock weapons for the PSNI. Speaking ahead of the meeting, mr kelly said:

"Sinn Féin opposed 28 day detention, unlike all the other parties represented at Westminster, who voted in favour of it. We are concerned that the proposals tabled by the NIO during the summer in relation to increased powers of search, arrest and detention and the introduction of new additional weaponry to the PSNI potentially represent a further erosion of human rights. We have also met with the Human Rights Commission about these and other matters. Many key advocates in the human rights community share our concerns and objections."

Mr Kelly said he also hoped to raise the abolition of Diplock Courts,which Sinn Féin has consistently campaigned for an end to :

"Sinn Féin has consistently raised the abolition of the Diplock Courts with the British government and some time ago we secured a commitment from them that they would do this. However, in the proposals which have been brought forward to replace Diplock courts, there are new potential problems emerging around the rights of defendants to a fair trial. In particular, the British government is bringing forward a new proposal in the six counties that the right of a defendant to peremptory challenge in the selection of juries should be abolished. This proposal is one for which there has been no demand and would do nothing to restore confidence in the courts."

Deputy of O'Snodaigh said:

"The use of repressive measures within the Criminal Justice system is not confined to the six counties. Sinn Féin have consistently called for the abolition of the Special Criminal Court in Dublin. The ending of the Special Criminal Court and the repeal of the Offences Against the State Act are required under strand three of the Good Friday Agreement.

"Tomorrows meeting is part of a series of such engagements as we seek to drive forward the process of change within the criminal justice systems north and south and we intend to hold similar talks with the Minister McDowell in the coming weeks.." ENDS

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