Developments in public protection arrangements "commended" by independent Inspectorate
The Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland Dr Michael Maguire has commended developments in public protection arrangements in Northern Ireland in a new report published today (Monday 13 June 2011).
The report is Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland's (CJI's) fourth assessment of public protection arrangements.
"The management of serious offenders including sex offenders in the community is a high profile and critically important aspect of the criminal justice system and we are pleased to report progress within each of the agencies involved in delivering the public protection arrangements (PPANI)," said Dr Maguire.
"The supervision of offenders is not prison in the community and there will always be the possibility of serious crime being committed. While no set of arrangements can mitigate all risks completely, it is imperative the arrangements in place to protect the public operate effectively," he said.
The introduction of legislation which placed public protection arrangements on a statutory footing has been beneficial and underpinned important improvements in the management of sex offenders. In addition, Inspectors found clear evidence that previous CJI inspection recommendations have been implemented.
The inspection found improvements within the agencies participating in PPANI which included greater consistency in practice, improved managerial oversight and increased use of court orders to manage sex offenders.
"The development of the co-located Public Protection Team - which is staffed by experienced police and probation officers working together to manage offenders who are assessed as posing the highest risk, and requiring the most intensive level of supervision - is to be welcomed as it has provided a level of reassurance that did not previously exist.
"This inspection also found that Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) officers involved in public protection work are more confident, more experienced and had access to better resources than before," he said.
Likewise, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland was found to invest a significant amount of financial and human resources in offender management and the contribution of Social Services had significantly improved through the involvement of dedicated personnel.
The important contribution made by Northern Ireland's hostels in support of PPANI is also highlighted.
As part of the report, Inspectors made 13 recommendations aimed at consolidating the progress made to date.
"CJI has made two strategic recommendations the first of which relates to chairing the Strategic Management Board. The second addresses the inclusion of potentially dangerous persons within the PPANI framework. It aims to lessen the burden on the PSNI which has responsibility for managing the risk posed by the majority of these offenders, while ensuring the critical few who merit PPANI supervision continue to be included," said the Chief Inspector.
Dr Maguire indicated it was also imperative that victims issues remain a priority for all involved with the arrangements.
"The new PPANI procedures have raised the profile of victims. Staff involved in this work must ensure they do not become focused solely on the process of risk management and must keep victims at the heart of their work." he said.
"We have also recommended the Northern Ireland Prison Service should improve its contribution to the PPANI process through greater engagement with PPANI training and strengthening its Offender Behaviour Programme delivery," he added.
In conclusion, Dr Maguire said he welcomed the attention which has been given to strengthening risk management arrangements.
"I would urge each of the criminal justice agencies and their partner organisations to continue to place public protection arrangements at the forefront of their work," said the Chief Inspector.