Belfast Telegraph

Offenders wrap ill children's gifts

Christmas presents wrapped by offenders have been handed out to sick children in Northern Ireland.

The charitable Santa Project is run by the Probation Board as a way to enable those they are supervising to give something back to the community.

Presents, which are bought by the board's community service team, are delivered to both the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the Northern Ireland Children's Hospice in Belfast.

The first batch were given to children in the hospital this week, with probation staff member Paddy McGeough playing the part of Father Christmas.

Cheryl Lamont, acting director of probation, said: "The Santa Project shows the real commitment of probation staff to the local community and allows offenders who are being supervised through community service 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."

Probation services officer Michael Maitland said the project provided valuable community support to people in need.

"It also gives offenders the opportunity to do something positive for their local community and can go some way to reintegrate and restore their standing within their community, giving them recognition, value and reward for their efforts," he said.

"Each year offenders deliver an average of 200,000 hours of unpaid work to the community in Northern Ireland through community service sentences. Some examples of community service work are environmental and conservation projects, painting and decorating, gardening and home maintenance.

"The community service sentence enables offenders to pay back to the community for their wrongdoing."

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