Inspectorate publishes findings of evaluation of West Belfast Community Safety Forum

An independent inspection of the West Belfast Community Safety Forum (WBCSF) has examined the impact the forum has had in increasing community safety in West Belfast.

The findings of the inspection report published today (26 November) by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has revealed that since the WBCSF was established in June 2008, it has made a positive contribution to the delivery of a safer community.
“The WBCSF was set up following a period of sustained community unrest following the murder of three West Belfast residents. The forum was established to provide opportunities for statutory and non-statutory organisations and the community to discuss issues of community safety and ways of addressing them,” said Dr Michael Maguire, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
Dr Maguire explained that Inspectors - who began evaluating the work of the WBCSF in May 2009 at the request of the Criminal Justice Minister for Northern Ireland – had heard consistent support for the work of the forum expressed by the statutory agencies involved with the steering group.
“Inspectors were provided with examples by the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland, the Public Protection Arrangements for Northern Ireland and Victim Support Northern Ireland where the Forum had facilitated outreach opportunities in West Belfast.
“They also heard that both statutory and non-statutory agencies had been able to target their resources more effectively to respond to local needs as a result of their engagement with the group,” he said.
“The WBCSF also provided a practical, on-the-ground connection between the local community and the justice system at a time of considerable community unease,” continued the Chief Inspector.
Dr Maguire however said that not all spoken to during the course of the inspection were supportive, and Inspectors had been told the attention given to the Forum by Government could reinforce political difficulties rather than bring the community together.
“Concerns were also expressed by some that the WBCSF could undermine the work of existing structures such as the District Policing Partnerships and the Community Safety Partnership,” he said.
He continued: “We would therefore suggest that any decision about the future development of the Forum can only be made in the context of a wider consideration of the other agencies involved in similar areas of work.”
Dr Maguire concluded by stressing the potential devolution of policing and justice matters and the roll-out of plans following the Review of Public Administration would place a greater emphasis on finding local solutions to local problems.
“The lessons learned as a result of the development of the West Belfast Community Safety Forum can feed into this discussion and help shape future activity in this area,” said the Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice.