Belfast Telegraph

Offenders pay back to community

Offenders in Northern Ireland put in more than 160,000 hours of community service in the last 12 months.

Almost 100,000 hours of that unpaid work were completed in Belfast in 2010/11, according to the Probation Board NI.

Projects included environmental clean ups on the Divis mountain and painting and decorating community centres.

Grass cutting and general maintenance across the city was also carried out by offenders ordered to give something back to society.

Christine Hunter, PBNI area manager with responsibility for community service in Belfast said: "These are just some examples of the good work offenders are completing in Belfast in order to pay back to communities. Community Service is an extremely effective tool in preventing people going on to re-offend."

Ms Hunter said community service in Belfast had made a real impact on re-offending rates.

"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 reconviction rate is 25% which compares favourably to the 38% and 39% adult reconviction rates for community service in England & Wales and Scotland respectively.

"It is a visible and practical method of ensuring offenders pay something back to the community while at the same time helping offenders to develop skills they can use in the future which will prevent them continuing in a cycle of crime. Probation Board staff supervise these sentences in a robust manner and if someone breaches their sentence they are returned to court."

Ms Hunter urged the public to suggest worthwhile projects that could be delivered through the community service in the future.

She said: "If any community group or member of the public has an idea for a project that offenders could work on for the benefit of your community, they can nominate a project for offenders to undertake at www.pbni.org.uk or you can email us at this address: communityservice@pbni.gsi.gov.uk."

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