'Partnerships 'key' to protecting adults at risk of harm now and in the future' says Inspectorate
The need for the criminal justice system to work collaboratively with Health and Social Services to help, support and protect adults who are at risk of harm, has been emphasised in a new report published today (9 September 2015) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI).
Speaking following the publication of the Adult Safeguarding report Brendan McGuigan, Northern Ireland's Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice said: "As a result of changes to the make up of the population, increasing numbers of people will at one time or another, be identified as at risk of harm and require protection.
"Adult safeguarding is a challenge for governments throughout the world that can only be effectively dealt with through a partnership approach between core departments such as Health and Justice and, in particular, Social Services and the police."
Reflecting on the current position in Northern Ireland, Mr McGuigan said there had been a number of recent developments in the criminal justice system in this area. These aimed to deliver improvements to better meet the needs of adults at risk of harm who require the support of the system.
"The Police Service of Northern Ireland's (PSNI's) decision to realign its Public Protection Units - which deal with adult safeguarding issues - to mirror the areas covered by the five Health and Social Care Trusts, is positive and we hope will ensure a focus is maintained on the needs of victims.
"It will also provide an efficient way in which police and Social Services can work together and we would urge the PSNI to make every effort to deliver on its plans in this area and further professionalise the delivery of public protection," said the Chief Inspector.
Mr McGuigan indicated that Inspectors welcomed the consultation exercise that had taken place leading to the publication of a new Adult Safeguarding Policy and the review of the Protocol for the Joint Investigation of Alleged and Suspected Cases of Abuse of Vulnerable Adults.
Improved clarity of the definition as to what constitutes adult safeguarding, he indicated, would also enable the criminal justice system to better target those in need of support.
The report also highlights a pilot between the PSNI and Social Services aimed at preventing men and women with limited capacity becoming inappropriately criminalised, and work undertaken to identify those victims and witnesses requiring additional support during criminal investigations and court proceedings.
"Public protection is an area that CJI has focused on for a number of years and made a number of previous recommendations. This report provides an overview of current changes taking place in the criminal justice system and I believe efforts would be better focused on fully implementing these recommendations rather than providing new ones at this stage.
"Instead, CJI will return to assess the effectiveness of the new structures in 18 months time after they have bedded in and become fully operational," concluded Mr McGuigan.