Belfast Telegraph

Alarm at probation substance misuse

More than 3,500 offenders being supervised by probation services in Northern Ireland have problems with drug and alcohol misuse.

The number equates to over 70% of all 5,000 criminals who are on probation in the region.

The scale of the drink and drug problem among offenders was outlined by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI).

It has outlined the figures to highlight the extent to which alcohol and substance abuse contributes to criminal and anti-social behaviour.

The acting director of PBNI Cheryl Lamont said the percentage of those experiencing misuse problems was concerning.

"Given that we supervise almost 5000 offenders, this is a significant number of people presenting with alcohol or drug problems," she said.

"We know many offenders commit acquisitive crimes, such as theft and burglary to fund their addictions. Many who commit assaults also report the fact that they have consumed alcohol or taken drugs.

"The Probation Board has developed a range of programmes which in a practical way seek to hold offenders to account, prevent further victimisation and create safer communities. Given the numbers of offenders who present with drug and alcohol issues many of the programmes we run deal with those specific areas, and work by providing information about the effects of alcohol upon health, personal relationships and offending to enable participants to make informed choices about their use of alcohol.

"We also work with community partners across NI to deliver effective interventions in relation to alcohol and substance misuse. Groups like AddictionNI which deal with alcohol and drug addictions and raise awareness of the dangers of drug and alcohol misuse receive community grants from PBNI to assist in making communities safer.

"It is important people think carefully about their actions and the consequences and know that if they become involved in criminality they will be held to account."

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