Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)

The Department of Justice is a government department in the Northern Ireland Executive, which was established on 12 April 2010 as part of the devolution of justice matters to the Northern Ireland Assembly. The position of Minister for Justice is currently Naomi Long. The department's Permanent Secretary is Nick Perry. 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 justice policy and the administration of courts in Northern Ireland.

Department of Justice
DoJ Logo Northern Ireland.png
Department overview
Formed12 April 2010
Preceding Department
JurisdictionNorthern Ireland
HeadquartersCastle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Belfast, BT4 3SG
Employees2,493 (September 2011)[1]
Annual budget£1,213.1 million (current) & £78.3 million (capital) for 2011–12[2]
Minister responsible
Castle Buildings, headquarters of the Department of Justice


The partition of Ireland created a separate jurisdiction of Northern Ireland in June 1921. A local Ministry of Home Affairs, initially led by Dawson Bates, 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 subsequently 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.

In October 2018, the department launched the "Ending the Harm" campaign to end paramilitary punishment attacks, a form of vigilante justice by paramilitary groups that continues after the Troubles.[3]


The Minister of Justice is elected by a cross-community vote in the Northern Ireland Assembly,[4] 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[5] and the deputy First Minister[6]).

The exception was made to resolve a dispute between the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and Sinn Féin.[7] The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland successfully nominated its party leader, David Ford, on 12 April 2010.[8] Ford was re-elected to the position on 16 May 2011[9] and was Minister until 2016.[10] On 25 May 2016, independent unionist Claire Sugden was elected the new Minister of Justice, following the Alliance Party's refusal of the justice ministry. Sugden's tenure as minister ended on 26 January 2017, when the Northern Ireland Executive was dissolved following further disputes between the DUP and Sinn Féin.

Minister Image Party Took office Left office
    David Ford   Alliance 12 April 2010 6 May 2016
    Claire Sugden   Independent 25 May 2016 26 January 2017
    Naomi Long   Alliance 11 January 2020 incumbant


Under the Programme for Government for 2016-2020, the department has been tasked with the outcome of "a safe community where we respect the law, and each other”. Its objectives are based on the concept of 'problem-solving justice' which seeks to drive forward "new and more imaginative" strategies, which will seek to address the underlying causes of offending behaviour.[11]


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

The department also oversees the following non-departmental public bodies:

The Police Service of Northern Ireland is operationally independent and accountable to the Northern Ireland Policing Board; the Minister of Justice has overall responsibility for legislation on policing.


The Department of Justice is responsible for most everyday policing and justice powers in Northern Ireland.

In 2009, responsibility for Interfaces Areas and Peacewalls passed from the Northern Ireland Office to the Minister of Justice.[12] As such, the Department of Justice is responsible for the policy of 'removal of all peacewalls in Northern Ireland by 2023'.[13]

The Northern Ireland Act 1998 (Devolution of Policing and Justice Functions) Order 2010 outlines the policy areas transferred to the Northern Ireland Assembly. These include:

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 National Crime Agency, the accommodation of prisoners in separated conditions within the Northern Ireland Prison Service, parades and the security of explosives.[14]

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, and national security (including intelligence services).[15]

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.[19] A considerable proportion of law enforcement in Northern Ireland (and media coverage of policing and justice stories) is taken up with unresolved cases arising from the Troubles, continuing paramilitary activity and tensions caused by sectarian division. The border results in differences in law between Northern Ireland (the only UK jurisdiction with an international land border) and the Republic of Ireland, which are exploited through smuggling and other forms of crime. The border is expected to become an external border of the European Union, following Brexit.


The 2016-2017 Northern Ireland Executive budget[20] allocated a £1,050.5 million resource budget to the Department of Justice:

This represented an increase from the previous resource budget of £1,023.9 million.

The department's capital budget was £58 million, allocated as follows:[21]

The Northern Ireland Executive was also provided with £32 million for national security in relation to Northern Ireland, £30 million for legacy bodies to deal with the Troubles (not yet established), £5 million to tackle paramilitary activity, and £800,000 to assist with the monitoring of paramilitary activity. [22]


Since the devolution of policing and justice, the Northern Ireland Assembly has enacted seven Acts mainly relating to justice policy:

In addition, the Department of Justice Act (Northern Ireland) 2010 formally established the department.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Northern Ireland Quarterly Employment Survey Historical Data". Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment. Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  2. ^ "Budget 2011–15" (PDF). Department of Finance and Personnel. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 December 2011. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  3. ^ Editor, Gerry Moriarty Northern (5 August 2019). "Northern Ireland: Eighty-one 'punishment attacks' in past year". The Irish Times. Retrieved 28 November 2019.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  4. ^ Section 21A(3A), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  5. ^ Section 16A(4), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  6. ^ Section 16A(5), Northern Ireland Act 1998 (as amended)
  7. ^ "Deal brokered to end NI deadlock". BBC News. 18 November 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  8. ^ "David Ford secures justice job". BBC News. 12 April 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  9. ^ "New Stormont ministers announced". BBC News. 16 May 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.
  10. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 October 2011. Retrieved 14 October 2011.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) Northern Ireland Executive
  11. ^ "About the Department of Justice". Northern Ireland Executive. 15 September 2015. Retrieved 20 October 2017.
  12. ^ Donnan, Hastings; Jarman, Neil (2017). "Ordinary Everyday Walls: Normalising Exception in Segregated Belfast". The Walls between Conflict and Peace. International Comparative Social Studies. 34. doi:10.1163/9789004272859_011. ISBN 9789004272859.
  13. ^ Executive, Northern Ireland (2 May 2019). "Together: Building a United Community' Strategy (T-BUC)". Northern Ireland Executive. Retrieved 2 May 2019.
  14. ^ Northern Ireland Assembly Information Office. "Policing and Justice motion, Northern ireland Assembly, 12 April 2010". Archived from the original on 16 December 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  15. ^ "Northern Ireland Act 1998, Schedule 2". 25 June 1998. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  16. ^ "About us". Home Office. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  17. ^ "Ministry of Justice: About us". Archived from the original on 23 January 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  18. ^ "Northern Ireland Office: About the NIO". 12 April 2010. Archived from the original on 17 September 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2011.
  19. ^ "Department of Justice and Equality: What We Do". Retrieved 22 March 2011.
  20. ^ Budget 2016-17 (PDF). Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive. 13 January 2016. p. 88. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  21. ^ Budget 2016-17 (PDF). Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive. 13 January 2016. p. 89. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  22. ^ Budget 2016-17 (PDF). Belfast: Northern Ireland Executive. 13 January 2016. p. 25. Retrieved 17 October 2017.

External linksEdit