Belfast Telegraph

Crime victims to have say in community service activities

Crime victims will have a say in how offenders spend community service punishments under new measures unveiled today.

The revised strategy launched by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) aims to empower those who have suffered at the hands of criminals.

Under the framework, victims could ask that a criminal completes his or her community service hours working for a charity that is close to the victim's heart.

Deputy Director of the PBNI Cheryl Lamont and Chief Executive of Victim Support Susan Reid will visit a community service project in Derry today to launch the strategy.

"Community Service is the most successful community sentence in Northern Ireland in terms of preventing re-offending," said Ms Lamont.

"Three out of four people who complete community service are not reconvicted in two years. It has the lowest reconviction rate of all community sentences in Northern Ireland.

"The new strategy seeks to build on the strengths of the scheme currently administered by PBNI and makes recommendations for change which will enhance the contribution it makes to addressing crime in the community.

"For example, victims and victim groups will be consulted about the work that offenders undertake. It is essential that the voices of victims are heard within the criminal justice system and we believe that consulting with victims in this way will empower them and send out a strong signal that their views are critical. Community Service will also be undertaken for victims and victim groups."

Ms Reid added: "At Victim Support Northern Ireland, we very much welcome PBNI's revised strategy.

"Their efforts to take on board the views of victims, considering their needs and moving their services towards a victim focus, are all important developments and those which we would hold up as examples of good practice to other agencies in the sector.

"The criminal justice system relies almost entirely on victims of crime being supported to come forward - reporting crime to police, attending court as a witness and giving evidence for the prosecution - and so it is only right that they are the focus of our work."

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