NI: Probation Board launches restorative justice practice framework

NI: Probation Board launches restorative justice practice framework

Aideen McLaughlin

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) has launched a new restorative justice practice framework setting out its ambition to become the leading organisation for the delivery of restorative practices for adults at all stages of the criminal justice system.

As one of the first steps in implementing the framework, a restorative practice forum has been established within PBNI to bring together practitioners and managers to share good practice, and develop guidance for other staff about how they can deliver services in a restorative manner.

The practice forum met in June for the first time, and work has commenced on updating practice standards so that in future, staff will routinely consider an offender’s suitability for a restorative process at all stages during their probation supervision.

Assistant director Aideen McLaughlin, who leads on restorative justice for PBNI, said: “Through the framework, PBNI aims to ensure that all staff keep the victim at the heart of its practice.

“Ultimately the objective is to have all operational staff throughout the organisation delivering restorative practices where it is appropriate to do so. That will ensure that restorative practice is at the heart of our work.”

She added: “PBNI is also developing new systems to record the number of restorative interventions being delivered and the outcomes for both victims and those who have offended. It is critical that we are able to measure and evidence the impact and difference that restorative practice makes to people’s lives.

“The importance of training for staff cannot be underestimated, therefore a training programme is also being developed so that staff can effectively deliver face to face restorative meetings where needed.

“Existing working relationships and partnerships with community organisations such as NI Alternatives and Community Restorative Justice Ireland will be further developed to expand delivery of restorative practices within communities.”

In cases where the direct victim of crime does not wish to be involved, there are plans to develop victim panels, where an offender will have an opportunity to meet with a “nominated individual” who will represent the views of the victim and speak with authority about how they have been affected and what would be required to put things right.

Ms McLaughlin concluded: “PBNI is committed to progressing its restorative work to help put victims at the heart of the criminal justice process and ensure their views are heard. This framework will help us achieve that.”

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