Northern Ireland pilot scheme launched to change behaviour of domestic violence offenders and help victims
A new pilot scheme, focused on changing the behaviours of those who are convicted of domestic violence related offences, was launched at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court.
The pilot will allow a judge to refer offenders - who have been convicted of a domestic violence or abuse offence - to the new Domestic Violence Perpetrators’ Programme (DVPP) before sentencing.
The programme, described as intensive and innovative, will work to modify perpetrators’ behaviour and reduce reoffending. It is also hoped that more victims will be encouraged to report crimes in the knowledge that their partners may be given an opportunity to get help.
Offenders, who have been assessed as suitable, will be required to complete an intensive therapeutic behaviour change programme delivered by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI).
To take up the programme, offenders must accept their behaviour is harmful, unacceptable and needs to change.
Offenders will be closely monitored by a judge, who will speak directly to them at monthly hearings, where he will review their compliance with programme requirements. Progress will be taken into account when determining an offender’s sentence.
A maximum of 30 offenders will be able to participate in the pilot, which is expected to run for around nine months.
Department of Justice Permanent Secretary, Nick Perry said "good work" was already being done in Derry to tackle domestic abuse.
“This innovative pilot is designed to challenge individuals to truly confront their offending behaviour. It will allow the judge to hold offenders directly accountable for their actions, to challenge them, and to support them to change," he said.
“This new pilot will undoubtedly supplement the excellent work already being undertaken in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court through the domestic violence and abuse listing arrangement. Ultimately, this programme, working alongside a number of other Problem Solving Justice initiatives, will help to create a safe community for Northern Ireland where we respect the law, and each other.”
Marie Brown Director of Foyle Woman’s Aid said the pilot would also support the victims of abuse.
“A key aspect of the programme is to ensure that the victims of abuse within the family are supported. The protection of victims is paramount within this programme and the role of the link worker is specifically designed to carry out this task.”
The initiative is one of a series of pilots being brought forward by the Department of Justice under its Problem Solving Justice approach, which seeks to find ways to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour.
Belfast Telegraph Digital