Belfast Telegraph

Thursday 18 September 2014

Criminals may have to face victims

Victims of crime will get the opportunity to tell the offender what impact their actions have had under new plans

Criminals will come face to face with their victims under new plans to tackle reoffending rates in Northern Ireland.

The Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI) initiative will offer affected people the opportunity to tell the offender what impact their actions have had.

The concept, outlined in the board's new three-year corporate plan, is designed to challenge offending behaviour by making criminals aware of the negative consequences of their behaviour.

The plan also includes a new mentoring scheme whereby offenders will be allocated a positive role model to work with as they complete their probation.

PBNI chairman Ronnie Spence said probation worked to reduce offending. "We believe that probation is pivotal to, and a critical part of, the criminal justice process working with police, courts, prisons, youth justice, the voluntary and community sectors, local communities and the Department of Justice."

"Much has been achieved by probation in Northern Ireland to reduce offending. PBNI is amongst the most effective probation services across these islands. However we are not complacent and we believe the new initiatives outlined in this plan will make us even more effective.The period of this corporate plan will no doubt bring more change, and therefore challenges and opportunities for the board."

Director of probation Brian McCaughey added: "Over the past three years there has been an increased demand for reports, services in custody delivered by PBNI and an increase in the number of orders and licences requiring PBNI supervision in the community.

"We are delivering more services and we believe that in the next three years our role will develop further. Within this corporate planning period we will introduce practical measures to further reduce offending and make local communities safer. These measures include implementing a victim offender strategy; developing a mentoring scheme; looking at more efficient and effective ways to deal with fine defaulters; and diverting those away from the criminal justice system who do not require it."

Justice minister David Ford welcomed the new corporate plan, saying: "The Probation Board is a key partner within the criminal justice family and their new corporate plan reflects the pivotal role that the board has in making our local communities safer.

"I have been particularly impressed by its successes in challenging and changing offenders' behaviour and thereby reducing offending. I also wish to acknowledge the commitment and professionalism of the board's staff in working with offenders to turn them away from crime, making Northern Ireland a better place for us all to live."

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