Probation Board offering support

Probation Board offering support

20 January 2021

NOT every case of domestic abuse or violence that reaches court means an end to a close relationship or a family break-up – that’s the message for both victims and perpetrators from the Probation Board of Northern Ireland (PBNI).

The PBNI claims success in working with the offender and victim or victims both before the perpetrator comes into the justice system and post-sentencing with a range of tailored programmes designed to drill down to the core of what prompted the violence and threats.

Roisin Leckey, who works in the Downpatrick PBNI office as an area manager, has 31 years’ experience working in every area of the Probation Service’s work.

A former student of Assumption Grammar School in Ballynahinch, Roisin managed the Victims’ Information Unit until her move to Downpatrick.

She explained that since 2019, the PBNI have offered a Promoting Positive Relationship (PPRP) six-month programme to the South Eastern Trust area, which is run annually for 12 men in the Downpatrick area.

“This is an early intervention dealing with men who are not yet part of the criminal justice system but who have been referred by the Trust to Probation.

“This is incredibly important because we know women often experience domestic abuse multiple times before they actually report an offence to police.”

She stressed that the aim was to protect women and children from any further fear or abuse while working to ensure that no further incidents occur.

However, often the real work with both victim and the offender – referred as the service user by Probation Services – starts post-sentencing.

“Every service user who come in contact with probation, from pre court reports, and throughout the case and post-sentencing, there is continuous risk assessment. From that risk assessment, we then determine what level of intervention is needed,” said Roisin.

“We have specific programmes for people involved in domestic abuse and domestic violence and it can range from an anger management programme, addiction programmes to our Respectful Relationship Programme or Thinking Skills. These programmes are challenging, thorough and hold men to account.”

She said that the Respectful Relationship Programme is for someone who is assessed as needing to know what a healthy relationship is, how to manage yourself in a relationship on a one to one basis.

“Quite often it will look into their belief systems and their own experience of relationships, what’s healthy, what’s not, looking at how to manage difficult situations without conflict and we keep the victim informed of progress along the way as sometimes the victim may still be living with the service user at this time.”

Roisin explained that the Restorative Justice programme — where offenders are encouraged to communicate or meet with victims under tightly arranged encounters in order to say sorry and take ownership of what happened — is also part of the PBNI’s service to domestic abuse victims.

It also gives victims the safe space to tell their abusers exactly the impact of what they did and consequences of their actions.