Belfast Telegraph

Monday 22 September 2014

Offenders wrap presents for charity

The Santa Project saw offenders undertake their probation work by wrapping presents for sick children

Offenders were handed a festive workload over Christmas as the Probation Board provided some seasonal cheer to sick children.

Criminals completing community service punishments wrapped presents before they were delivered to the Royal Victoria Hospital for Sick Children and the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice.

The task was part of the board's Santa Project Christmas charity initiative.

Probation Board Northern Ireland (PBNI) staff member Paddy McGeough stood in for Father Christmas this year to distribute the gifts to the children at the hospice and around the hospital wards.

Michael Maitland, Probation Services Officer said the initiative was a good way for offenders to contribute to the community in a positive way.

"The Santa Project allows those being supervised through our community service team to give something back at this time of year and undertake charitable work for the benefit of youngsters who are sick and undergoing medical treatment," he said.

"This involvement can also go some way to help them reintegrate and restore their standing within their community, giving them recognition, value and reward for their efforts."

The Probation Board community service team purchased the presents and, along with offenders they were supervising, wrapped the gifts before delivering them during Christmas week.

Each year offenders deliver an average of 160,000 hours of unpaid work to the community in Northern Ireland through community service sentences. The community service work includes environmental and conservation projects, painting and decorating, gardening and home maintenance.

The PBNI say the projects enable offenders to pay back to the community for their wrong doing.

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