FAQs

How 'real' is the process?

CJI strives to ensure the inspection process is relevant and meaningful both for the agencies involved and in terms of the findings it provides. CJI adopts a robust, evidence-based approach to inspection. The Inspectorate’s recommendations are designed to challenge both individually and collectively, agencies involved in an inspection with a view to securing improvement within the criminal justice system and on-going development in terms of both organisational processes and practice.
 
During an inspection a range of skills and techniques are used to ensure the integrity of the Inspectorate’s findings. CJI regularly ask an inspected agency to carry out a self assessment, reviews files and documentation and carries out interviews with senior management and operational members of staff. 
 
Inspectors will during the course of an inspection also look outside Northern Ireland to other jurisdictions within the United Kingdom, Europe and in other parts of the world to find examples of good practice from which comparisons can be drawn.
 
The wide range of skills, experience and knowledge of CJI’s core Inspection Team are further enhanced by working in partnership with other partner inspectorates/agencies as well as with independent experts/specialists. 
 
This thorough, comprehensive inspection process ensures that CJI’s reports are authorative and of high quality.

Does CJI deal with complaints about the criminal justice system or its agencies?

CJI does not handle complaints about the criminal justice system or its agencies. Sometimes complaints are handled directly by the agency itself and at other times, an outside body is appointed to deal with complaints.

Organisations which handle complaints linked to the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland include the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland; the Independent Complaints Assessor; the Independent Complaints Reviewer; the Prisoner Ombudsman for Northern Ireland; the Assembly Ombudsman; and the Parliamentary Ombudsman. Links to each of these bodies are listed on the Links page of this website
 
Additional information relating to how agencies within the criminal justice system deal with complaints can be obtained by contacting the individual agency/organisation concerned. 

Does CJI inspect individual cases?

It is not within CJI’s remit to inspect individual cases. CJI does however monitor trends and issues that are of public interest and will regularly address them during the inspection process.

How can I get an inspection report?

CJI reports are available to download electronically from this website or in a published format. Copies are also provided to all relevant agencies involved in each inspection and distributed to local libraries. To obtain a printed copy of any CJI inspection report, please complete the ‘Keep me informed’ section of the website, phone or write to us.

How do agencies react to inspection?

Each of the agencies that CJI inspects recognise the value that inspection can bring to securing improvement and promoting organisational learning and change where appropriate. CJI has a good working relationship with each of the organisations that it inspects.  This is because the process is based on mutual respect and starts from the assumption that each agency is committed to delivering its services to the best of its ability. Inspection is carried out with a view to securing improvement within the criminal justice system, not finding or attributing blame.

How does CJI decide who it inspects and how often this should occur?

CJI has a duty to carry out inspections of all the agencies within its remit- a list which is included on the About Us, Our Remit section of this website. The frequency of inspection can vary from organisation to organisation and will depend on its position/importance within the Criminal Justice System.

How do I become an Inspector with CJI?

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland is an equal opportunities employer and all vacancies within the Inspection team and other areas of work within the Inspectorate are publicly advertised and included in the vacancies section of this website. Applications are welcomed from all suitably qualified individuals regardless of religious or political beliefs, disability, age, race, sex  or sexual orientation. Please visit our Vacancies page to view current career opportunities with CJI and details of how to apply.

How do I keep up to date with what CJI is doing?

Complete the ‘Keep me informed’ section of the website and CJI will use this to ensure you are kept in touch with the Inspectorate’s activities and inspection publications. Alternatively, you can e-mail, phone or write to CJI using the contact us section of the website or the contact details below.

How does CJI 'check' the agencies/organisations are acting on the inspection recommendations?

About 18 months to two years after an initial inspection is carried out, CJI will re-visit the inspection topic to assess progress. When an agency has submitted an action plan in response to the original inspection report, an action plan review is carried out. In other circumstances CJI will carry out an inspection review assessing progress against whether the Inspectorate’s original recommendations have been acted upon. You can find further information on this in the Inspections section of the website.

What do you do when you find something wrong?

When CJI finds evidence of poor practice or areas where improvement is required, it will say so and encourage the agency/agencies involved to work towards securing improvement. By doing so, CJI retains its impartiality and ensures the public can have confidence in the independence of its work.

What does CJI do to seek the views of the local community?

CJI is keen to engage with all individuals and groups that work within or have an interest in criminal justice matters.  During its inspections CJI will seek the views of voluntary, community and satutory organistaions, local opinion formers and elected representatives.  In the past CJI has met with members of district policing partnerships across the country and has undertaken a community engagement initative designed to hear at first hand from memebers of the public about the issues of interest and concern to them.  The Inspectorate also host an annual stakeholder conference to stimulate debate and discussion around CJI matters.

What happens during an inspection?

This depends on the type of inspection being carried out.  Initially, CJI will evaluate the inspection topic to establish if it will be carried out independently or would benefit from additional expertise provided by a partner inspectorate or agency.  CJI will ask the agency/ies involved to carry out a self assessment if it’s appropriate.  Research and fieldwork will follow which can include interviews with senior management and staff within the inspected agency/ies and consultation with stakeholders.  A draft report will be prepared and shared with the agencies involved to ensure factual accuracy.  Agencies are at this stage encouraged to prepare an action plan showing how they intend to address the recommendations made as a result of CJI’s inspection to be published alongside the inspection report.  Once the inspection process reaches its conclusion, the Chief Inspector submits the report to the Northern Ireland Office and seeks Ministerial approval to enable the Inspectorate to publish its report and place the document before Parliament.  More information can be found in the Our Approach section of the website.

What happens if the inspection recommendations are not addressed/acted upon?

CJI always revisits its inspection topics 18 months to two years after the inspection report is published. This enables the Inspectorate to assess whether its recommendations have been acted upon. If Inspectors found there was no will within the organisation concerned to address its recommendations, CJI would make this public via its action plan review/inspection follow up review and bring it to the attention of senior management.  Should CJI be unable to secure a commitment towards improvement from management, CJI could if required bring this issue to the attention of the Minister for Criminal Justice or the Criminal Justice Board.

What input do voluntary and community organisations have?

Voluntary and community organistaions regularly work in partnership with statutory criminal justice agencies.  CJI recognises the important role and valuable contribution they make within the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland.  CJI is therfore keen to engage with voluntary and community organisations and seek their views in relation to all appropriate inspection topics. 

What is a Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) and how do they work?

A Non-Departmental Public Body (NDPB) is a classification applied by Government to certain types of public bodies. The NDPBs are not an integral part of a government department and carry out their work at arm’s length from Ministers, although Ministers are ultimately responsible to Parliament for the activities of the bodies sponsored by their department.
 
NDPBs such as CJI are not created to carry out Ministerial orders or policy and are more or less self determining.
 
Like most NDPBs CJI was established under statute and at that time was accountable to Parliament rather than Government.  Following devolution CJI became accountable to the Northern Ireland Assembly.
 
This arrangement facilitates more financial independence, since government is obliged to provide funding to meet statutory obligations.
 
CJI is an Executive NDPB. An executive NDPB delivers a particular public service and is able to employ its own staff and is allocated its own budget.  It is however different to other NDPBs as it is an NDPB in the person of the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice.
 
CJI is one of nine NDPBs in Northern Ireland. Others include the Equality Commission for NI; the NI Human Rights Commission (NIHRC), the NI Policing Board (NIPB); the office of PONI and Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI). More information on NDPBs can be found on the Civil Service Website www.civilservice.gov.uk

What other organisations/Inspectorates does CJI regularly work with?

CJI has close working relationships with the other Inspectorates in Northern Ireland and partner Inspectorates that examine the various agencies of the criminal justice system in England, Scotland and Wales. CJI will regularly work with internationally respected inspectorates such as Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons; Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary; Her Majesty’s Crown Prosecution Service; Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Courts Administration; Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Probation; The Scottish Prison Service Inspectorate and others. 

In Northern Ireland, CJI has worked with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) and the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA). The Inspectorate has also forged links with other organisations the Office of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY) the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Audit Office. 

Links to our partner organisations can be found within the Links page of this website.

What type of previous experience/background knowledge do you need to be an Inspector?

The skills required to join the Inspection team will vary dependent on the post.  Inspectors currently working with CJI come from a variety of backgrounds including social work, audit, policing and consultancy. Others who have worked with the Inspectorate have legal, statistical and research skills. 
 
While operational experience within the criminal justice system can in some instances be desirable, experience and knowledge or working in other areas of the public and private sector can be just as relevant.

Details of the skills, experience and knowledge required to fulfill the duties of any post within the organisation will be made available to applicants during any recruitment campaign. Please visit our Vacancies page to view current career opportunities with CJI and details of how to apply.

Who appoints the Chief Inspector and how long does their appointment last?

The post of Chief Inspector is a public appointment made by the Minister for Justice. The Chief Inspector is initially appointed for a three-year term with the option to extend the term of appointment to five years.  Prior to the devolution of policing and criminal justice, responsibility for the appointment of the Chief Inspector rested with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland.

Who is the Chief Inspector?

The position of Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland is currently vacant. The Acting Chief Inspector is Brendan McGuigan.  Further information on his role and background can be found in the CJI staff pages.

Why are a lot of CJI's reports published around the same time?

CJI is required under legislation to present all its reports to the Houses of Parliament at Westminister. This can only be carried out when Parliament is in session.  The nature of the inspection programme can also be a factor in determining when an inspection report is published. This is because the time required to carry out an inspection, compile and finalise a report can vary dependant on the number of organisations involved in the inspection and complexity of the subject/topic.  

Why are criminal justice agencies inspected?

Criminal justice agencies are inspected to ensure they are delivering the best possible service to all sections of the community.
 
By carrying out inspection work with each of the criminal justice agencies, CJI provides independent evidence to Government, and to the public, that policies and processes which are in place within the individual agencies - and across the criminal justice system - are both appropriate and effective.
 
CJI’s inspection work also provides reassurance that criminal justice agencies in Northern Ireland are delivering a fair, impartial system of justice to the community. This is particularly important as some parts of the community in Northern Ireland have historically lacked confidence in individual agencies and in the criminal justice system as a whole.
 
Inspection can also provide a way in which to check criminal justice agencies are responding to community concerns and are encouraging community involvement where appropriate.
 
Inspection offers an opportunity to assess whether the agencies are carrying out their responsibilities in an efficient and effective manner and can help identify areas where improvements can be made that will help progress the criminal justice system.
  
By providing robust, evidence-based assessments of the work of all the criminal justice agencies, inspection makes a valuable contribution to Government’s aim of increasing public confidence in the criminal justice system.

 

Why did Northern Ireland need its own inspectorate?

The Belfast Agreement and the Criminal Justice Review 2000 provided an opportunity to develop an innovative inspectorate tailored to the specific needs of Northern Ireland.   The unified nature of CJI means the inspectorate is in a unique position to work across the various criminal justice agencies, promote inter-organisational learning and the sharing of best practice. More information on the background to CJI can be found on the Background page contained in the About Us section of the site.