Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders

BB made this Freedom of Information request to Department of Justice (Northern Ireland) Automatic anti-spam measures are in place for this older request. Please let us know if a further response is expected or if you are having trouble responding.

The request was partially successful.

Dear Department of Justice (Northern Ireland),

Firstly, to give you some comparative information about a different UK jurisdiction.

The Ministry of Justice (UK) has published the following information about Maintenance Enforcement Business Centres (MEBCs) operational In England and Wales:

“ The MEBCs are separate from the REMO unit. They operate as part of the REMO system but do not act as agents of the REMO unit and/or of foreign central authorities. The MEBCs are part of Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunal Service (HMCTS) and are within the family court service of HMCTS. To a limited extent they are able to independently facilitate the operation of justice in respect of applications made through the REMO system as follows:

• The MEBC administration team have limited delegated judicial powers allowing them to recognise orders and if payment is via the court to take enforcement action to list a case under their own authority. They also have power to accept affidavits and sworn statements.

• HMCTS legal advisers are all lawyers (solicitors or barristers) and have extended delegated judicial powers which, for example, enable them to register orders in light of case law and any relevant legislation if the application is not straight forward and make directions to progress cases. Such directions can include directions for the service of specific evidence and directing the timetable for a hearing in the Family Court.

The MEBC as a body does not have the legal power to make/vary orders or determine appeals and these must be listed before a court for a full hearing.”

Now to this jurisdiction. In ‘Magistrates’ Courts (Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders) Rules (NI) 1974’ at Article 9 (2) it states:

“ 9 (2) Where it appears to a justices' clerk to whom payments under any maintenance order are made by virtue of paragraph (1) above that any sums payable under the order are in arrear he may and, if such sums are in arrear to an amount equal to four times the sum payable weekly under the order, he shall, whether the person for whose benefit the payment should have been made requests him to do so or not, proceed in his own name for the recovery of those sums, unless it appears to him that it is unreasonable in the circumstances to do so.”

Under FOI, kindly provide:

1) the job title, business unit and location of the justice’ clerks referred to in article 9 of that legislation;

2) Clarify If MEBC work is undertaken by the justice’ clerks mentioned in 1 or by another unit or staff and provide contact details.

3) The job title and work unit of staff members with the responsibility to send update contact details for use on The Hague Convention website.

Regards

Dear Department of Justice (Northern Ireland),

Grateful if you would kindly acknowledge this freedom of information request submitted via WhatDoTheyKnow.

Regards

B Brewster

NICTS Information Access,

2 Attachments

Dear Requestor

 

Please find attached correspondence dated 25 January for your attention.

 

Kind Regards

 

Records and Information Management Team | Northern Ireland Courts and
Tribunals Service | Department of Justice

Level 2 | Laganside House | 23-27 Oxford Street | Belfast | BT1 3LA

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References

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1. https://www.justice-ni.gov.uk/publicatio...

Dear Department of Justice (Northern Ireland),

Please pass this on to the person who conducts Freedom of Information reviews.

I am writing to request an internal review of Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)'s handling of my FOI request 'Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders'.

My FOI request showed extracts of a previous FOI response from the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) in England and Wales, published by the MoJ including on WhatDoTheyKnow website. My FOI was clearly seeking data from the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, which is the Northern Ireland department equivalent to the MoJ England and Wales; both are set up to hold ministerial appointments. My FOI request is clearly aimed at seeking information to view the similarities or otherwise of the 2 Ministerial Departments in 2 separate jurisdictions within the one ‘United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’.

Furthermore, the data that is available at Departmental / Ministerial level is key to this FOI request.

A full history of my FOI request and all correspondence is available on the Internet at this address: https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/r...

I look forward to your review and return of this FOI request to the Department of Justice.

B Brewster

Dear Department of Justice (Northern Ireland),

On 25th January I requested an internal review of your decision not to respond to my FoI request and your decision to divert the FoI request to another public body.

Kindly acknowledge the 25th January request for an internal review.

Regards

B Brewster

DOJ FOI Mailbox, Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)

Good morning,

We acknowledge receipt of your email request on 25th January.

Regards,

Carl

Records and Information Management | Department of Justice
Knockview Buildings | Stormont | Belfast | BT4 3SL

Working in partnership to create a fair, just and safe community where we respect the law and each other.

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NICTS Information Access,

2 Attachments

Dear Ms Brewster

 

Please see attached correspondence dated 14 February 2024 for your
attention.

 

Regards

 

Records and Information Management Branch | Northern Ireland Courts and
Tribunals Service | Department of Justice

Level 2 | Laganside House | 23-27 Oxford Street | Belfast | BT1 3LA

e-mail [1][email address]

 

[2]A logo with text on it Description automatically generated   

 

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Dear DOJ FOI Mailbox,

My FOI request was sent to the Department of Justice NI and I specifically requested a review by the Department, not by NICTS.

Of the information that has been released through this FoI I respond as follows:

You are correct, the paragraph of Magistrates’ Courts (Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act Rules (Northern Ireland) 1986 I quoted was actually 9(3). I note you have stated that the Clerk of Petty Sessions is the persons referred to in para 9(3) of Magistrates’ Courts (Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act Rules (Northern Ireland) 1986, and that this person(s) are based in each court venue.

For clarity, here is the paragraph 9(3) you cited:
"Where it appear to the clerk to whom payments by way of periodical payments under
any maintenance order are made by virtue of paragraph (1) above that any sums
payable under the order are in arrear he may and, if such sums are in arrear to an
amount equal to four times the sum payable weekly under the order, he shall, whether
the person for whose benefit the payment should have been made requests him to do so
or not, proceed in his own name for the recovery of those sums, unless it appears to him
that it is unreasonable in the circumstances to do so."

However, you then went on to say that, in Northern Ireland, the equivalent of the work of the English and Welsh MEBC is undertaken by the REMO unit. I believe this is an error on your part and continue to ask for a review BY THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, not by NICTS. The following observations should be considered in DoJ's review of question 2 of my FoI:

1: The link you provided for locations and contact details of clerks of petty sessions did not include any mention of REMO unit. Instead it listed the various courts within Northern Ireland and the Fine Collection and Enforcement Service. The list is entirely in keeping with where it is commonly known that clerks of petty sessions work, the magistrates courts and EJO.

2: In England and Wales the roles of MEBC and REMO are very distinct. MEBC is an acronym for 'Maintenance Enforcement Business Centre'. In England and Wales, MEBC is about ENFORCEMENT.

3: The legislation itself is titled 'Magistrates Courts...'.

4: There is a separate FoI addressed direct to NICTS which has requested the job descriptions of staff within the REMO unit. Those job descriptions have not been forthcoming yet, and I respectfully suggest to you that this is because NICTS knows there are no Clerks of Petty Sessions working in the REMO unit.

5: Staff in REMO state they have no powers to take any of the actions referred to in para 9(3) of Magistrates’ Courts (Civil Jurisdiction and Judgments Act Rules (Northern Ireland) 1986.

I request the review, and that it is undertaken by the person in the Department of Justice who is responsible for FoI reviews.

Regards

B Brewster

Dear DOJ FOI Mailbox,

Kindly acknowledge my request for an internal review by DoJ which is now overdue.

B Brewster

DOJ FOI Mailbox, Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)

Good morning,

We acknowledged receipt of your internal review request on 25 January 2024.

You will receive a response when the review has been completed.

Kind regards,

DOJ Records & Information Team

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DOJ Data Protection Officer, Department of Justice (Northern Ireland)

1 Attachment

Good afternoon,

With reference to your Internal Review Request, please see attached response.

Regards,

DOJ Data Protection Officer

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