I thank the Deputy for his question. Since the devolution of policing and justice in 2010, policing, prisons and overall criminal justice policy in Northern Ireland have been the responsibility of the Minister of Justice, David Ford, MLA. The Government has an ongoing engagement with the Minister, Mr. Ford, on a wide range of security and political issues, including most recently, on 1 October, when my colleague, the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Frances Fitzgerald, and Mr. Ford addressed the 12th annual organised crime seminar in Belfast. I spoke with Mr. Ford on Sunday, 28 September by telephone.
Since 2010, in addition to strengthening Garda-PSNI co-operation, a primary focus of the Government is to ensure the justice systems in place are robust and remain consistent with the principles and values of the Good Friday Agreement and the other agreements of which we are co-guarantors. In this context, my Department maintains an ongoing interest in the humanitarian aspects of prison conditions in Northern Ireland and engages as appropriate with the relevant authorities. A central aspect of our engagement is our absolute support for the men and women of the PSNI and the Northern Ireland Prison Service in their work to support the rule of law and a new beginning for justice in the North. I reiterate previous condemnations in this House of the unacceptable threats to members of the prison service and the PSNI from enemies of the peace process and call, once again, for such threats to be lifted with immediate effect.
As an executive agency of the Northern Ireland Department of Justice, the Northern Ireland Prison Service implements prison policy in that jurisdiction. The Prisoner Ombudsman is also appointed by the Minister, Mr. Ford, and operates entirely independently of the prison service. The ombudsman, Mr. Tom McGonigle, and his team investigate complaints from prisoners and visitors regarding prisons and prison conditions in Northern Ireland.
Since taking office, I have had regular and comprehensive discussions with the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, Theresa Villiers, MP, on these specific issues.