Statement of Compliance with the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008

serving the community through the administration of justice

Date issued:

October 2010

Document Authors:

Statistics & Research

Date Updated June 2013

The following statement is published in conformance with the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 which was approved by Parliament under Section 11 of the Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007.

The statement sets out the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s operational arrangements for giving the Ministers and their close officials pre-release access to the organisation’s own official statistics once they are in their final form prior to publication.

These arrangements are designed to ensure that such access is justified, limited, controlled and publicised and complies with statutory requirements. Their purpose is to maintain public confidence in the integrity of official statistics while also allowing Ministers to account immediately for the implications of statistics covering policy or operational areas for which they are responsible.

Full details of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s statistical outputs are available at: http://www.courtsni.gov.uk/en-GB/Services/Statistics%20and%20Research/Pages/default.aspx

Introduction

This statement sets out the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s operational arrangements for giving Ministers and their officials pre-release access to official statistics once they are in their final form prior to publication. These arrangements are designed to ensure that such access is justified, limited, controlled and publicised and complies with statutory requirements. Their purpose is to maintain public confidence in the integrity of official statistics while allowing Ministers to comment immediately on the implications of statistics covering policy areas for which they are democratically responsible.  

Exclusion

Different arrangements apply to Ministers and officials’ access to the organisation’s own administrative or management data where those data subsequently form the basis for published official statistics.

Authority

These arrangements have been drawn up by the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s Senior Statistician in consultation with the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency (NISRA) Chief Executive and the Director of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. The Senior Statistician is also responsible for ensuring the day-to-day implementation of these arrangements.

General Principle

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service operates under the general principle that pre-release access to official statistics must be:

Grant of advance access

The arrangements set out in this statement are confined to those persons who meet the eligibility criteria set out in Annex A(i) attached. Recipients can, in addition, share their access with their immediate administrative support staff even though those staff may not directly engage with the statistics in question. Their advance access is limited to statistics which meet the eligibility criteria set out in Annex A(ii) attached, and which are in their final form prior to being published for the first time.

Documentation and Publication

In the interests of openness and transparency, the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service maintains a public record on its website listing the titles of all the statistical releases to which these arrangements apply, as well as the job titles of all those persons to whom pre-release access has been granted, and the organisations to which they belong (see Annex C).

Period of access

In line with the legislation, pre-release access to the organisation’s official statistics is restricted to a maximum of 24 hours before their public release on the following day – usually at 09.30

In exceptional circumstances only, and in accordance with Principle 5 of the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008, the Senior Statistician may grant pre-release access in excess of 24 hours. They will only do this if, in their opinion, the public benefit outweighs the detriment to public trust which is likely to result from such extended access. When this happens, the Senior Statistician will publish on their organisation’s website their reasons for granting extended access, and will also inform the NISRA Chief Executive who will advise, as appropriate, the UK Statistics Authority’s Chief Executive – the National Statistician.      

Conditions of access

Those persons who are given access to the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s official statistics ahead of their release must keep the statistics secure and under embargo, and they must abide by the following conditions of access. They must avoid:

Special circumstances

Aside from the circumstances described above, the Head of Profession may also allow access to statistics ahead of their release to a limited number of persons in a limited number of special circumstances, sometimes for more than 24 hours. In each case, such access will be documented in the relevant release. For example:

Breach of conditions of release

In the event of a breach of the principles and rules set out in the legislation and described in this Statement, the Senior Statistician will notify the NISRA Chief Executive who will in turn notify the UK Statistics Authority’s Chief Executive (the National Statistician); take action to prevent a recurrence; and provide the Authority with a written explanation using the Authority’s standard reporting form. The National Statistician may decide to conduct an inquiry on behalf of the Authority, the results of which will be posted on the Authority’s website. In the case of minor breaches, or genuinely accidental breaches which have no major repercussions, the Senior Statistician may deal with the matter informally.

Sanctions against non-compliance

The Senior Statistician may, for a period, withdraw pre-release access from any person judged to have breached the conditions of their access.

In addition, a heavier sanction can be imposed by the UK Statistics Authority which has a statutory duty to assess the extent to which any organisation’s ‘National Statistics’ comply with the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics Order 2008 and with the associated obligations set out in this Statement.  The Authority can, for instance, challenge an organisation where it considers that pre-release access to a National Statistic is not justified or where an organisation is failing to conform to these arrangements. It can also withdraw, or consider withdrawing, ‘National Statistics’ designation from the statistics in question.

In the event of any such challenge or withdrawal the Senior Statistician will publish the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service’s response or reaction on its website along with its plans for achieving conformance.

ANNEX A
Criteria for Granting Pre-Release Access

(i) - Categories of persons within government to whom the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service would normally grant pre-release access to its statistical releases….

(plus any immediate ancillary staff who support the above)

(ii) - Categories of statistical release to which the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service would normally grant pre-release access.....

ANNEX B
Definitional Notes:

(a) Pre-release access

In the context described above, the phrase 'pre-release access' covers privileged access to statistical releases in their final form prior to being placed in the public domain. It does not cover pre-release access available to:

However the restrictions listed under ‘Conditions of access’ above do apply to the above.

(b) Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service Senior Statistician

Organisations which employ a large number of official statisticians, or produce a large number of official statistics are normally required to appoint a Senior Statistician in consultation with the NISRA Chief Executive.  As well as being accountable to the Minister responsible for the Northern Ireland Court Service and departmental line managers, the Senior Statistician is responsible to the NISRA Chief Executive who in turn is responsible to the National Statistician.  The Senior Statistician in the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service has a duty to oversee the professional integrity of the statisticians managed, and for the quality of the statistics which those statisticians produce.  In particular they are responsible for observing the UK Statistics Code of Practice for Statistics as well as any professional standards set by the National Statistician.

ANNEX C
Persons with Pre-Release Access

The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunal Service’s Statistics and Research Unit currently produce the following National Statistics publications:

In addition, the Unit also publishes the following official statistics:

The following list details the named positions who receive 24 hour pre-release access: