Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland

Compensation Agency for Northern Ireland

Department of Justice
Department overview
Formed 12 April 2010
Preceding Department

General justice policy: Ministry of Home Affairs (1921–1972)
Northern Ireland Office (1972–2010)
Lord Chancellor of Ireland (1921–1922)
Lord Chancellor's Department (1922–2003)
Department for Constitutional Affairs (2003–2007)

Ministry of Justice (2007–2010)
Jurisdiction Northern Ireland
Headquarters Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SG
Employees 2,493 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget £1,213.1 million (current) & £78.3 million (capital) for 2011–12[2]
Minister responsible David Ford

The Department of Justice is a devolved Northern Ireland government department in the Northern Ireland Executive. The current Minister of Justice is David Ford, who is a member of the Northern Ireland Executive. The department was established on 12 April 2010 as part of the devolution of justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly. It combines the previous work of the Northern Ireland Office and the Ministry of Justice, within the United Kingdom Government, which were respectively responsible for general justice policy and the courts in Northern Ireland.


The partition of Ireland created a separate jurisdiction of Northern Ireland in June 1921. A local Ministry of Home Affairs was established at that time and oversaw most aspects of justice policy until the introduction of direct rule in March 1972. The Northern Ireland Office, led by the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, was subsequently responsible for security and political affairs during the remainder of the Troubles.

The post of Lord Chancellor of Ireland was abolished in 1922 and replaced in Northern Ireland by the Lord High Chancellor of Great Britain. His supporting department and the subsequent Department for Constitutional Affairs (2003–2007) oversaw the courts until the formation of the Ministry of Justice in May 2007.

Most aspects of social and economic policy were devolved to the Northern Ireland Executive in December 1999. The devolution of policing and justice was pledged in the St Andrews Agreement (of October 2006) and the Hillsborough Castle Agreement (of February 2010) and occurred in April 2010.


The Minister of Justice is elected by a cross-community vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly,[3] unlike all other Northern Ireland Executive posts, which are either allocated by the d'Hondt method or appointed directly by the largest parties (i.e. the First Minister[4] and the deputy First Minister[5]).

The exception was made to resolve a dispute between the Democratic Unionist Party and Sinn Fein.[6] The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland successfully nominated its party leader, David Ford, on 12 April 2012.[7] Ford was re-elected to the position on 16 May 2010[8] and is the incumbent Minister.[9]


The department supports the Minister of Justice in "building a fair, just and safer society". It has four stated objectives: to "work in partnership" to produce a safer society and reduce the risk, and fear, of crime; to ensure that everyone in Northern Ireland has access to justice, without undue delay; to protect the public by reducing offending and managing offenders; and to contribute to the Shared Future strategy (now known as the Cohesion, Sharing and Integration strategy) for Northern Ireland through the operation of the justice system and assist in "enhancing decision-making and strategic resource management".[10]


The Department of Justice's headquarters is located in Castle Buildings in Belfast. Its remit includes the following executive agencies:

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland is responsible to it as a non-departmental public body. The Police Service of Northern Ireland is operationally independent and accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board; the Minister of Justice has overall responsibility.


The Department of Justice is responsible for most everyday policing and justice powers in Northern Ireland. These include:[11]

Some justice matters remain reserved to Westminster, with the Assembly's agreement e.g. the prerogative of mercy in terrorism cases, illicit drug classification, the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the accommodation of prisoners in separated conditions within the Northern Ireland Prison Service, parades and the security of explosives.[12]

In addition, some justice matters remain excepted and devolution was either not discussed or not considered feasible: extradition (as an international relations matter), military justice (as a defence matter), the enforcement of immigration law by the UK Border Agency, and national security (including intelligence services).[13]

The Department of Justice's main counterparts in the United Kingdom Government are:

In the Irish Government, its main counterpart is the Department of Justice and Equality.[17]

Ministers of Justice

Minister Image Party Took office Left office
Office created
    David Ford File:DavidFordAlliance.jpg Alliance 12 April 2010 Incumbent

See also


External links

  • Department of Justice
  • Policing and Justice Process Paper
  • BBC News video of Secretary of State's statement
  • The Departments (Northern Ireland) Order 1999 PDF (37.0 KB)
  • Criminal Justice System of Northern Ireland