Memorandum submitted by the Northern Ireland
Association for the Care and Resettlement of Offenders (NIACRO)
NIACRO welcomes the decision of the Northern
Ireland Select Committee to examine the issue of punishment beatings.
For the past nine years, NIACRO has been working, through its
Base2 programme, with people under threat of punishment beatings,
with the objective of removing the threat to the individual. In
that time, over 3,000 individuals and 600 families have sought
our assistance. Ideally, we operate to remove the threat completely,
enabling the person under threat to stay in their community. If
it proves to be impossible, we assist individuals and families
to physically move to a safe location.
NIACRO would be very much welcome the opportunity
of making a detailed submission to the Committee. At this stage
we provide copies of the most recent annual reports of Base2
that give a clear indication of the nature of our service. Perhaps
more importantly, they also provide an accurate view of the nature
and scope of the problem. Base2 statistics have become, alongside
RUC statistics, one of the most accurate sources of data that
describe this problem. The statistical information provides details
The numbers of cases Base2 handles
in any one year.
The type of client seeking support
who are under threat; age, sex, individual or family, community
Where the client lives.
The source of the threat.
The alleged behaviour that has resulted
in the threat.
The source of the referral.
The action taken to remove the threat.
This work is fraught with difficulties. During
the nine years of operation of Base2, the attitude of government
to our work has changed, depending on the political cicumstances
that pertained at any given time. So, initially the work of Base2
was supported entirely by private donations. Subsequently the
Probation Service supported the progamme enabling funding to be
accessed from Making Belfast Work.
After the ceasefires of the paramilitary organisations
and the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, government funding
for Base2 was ended. It was argued by government and the Probation
Service that to financially support Base2 was to implicitly endorse
continued paramilitary violence as, in the context of the Good
Friday Agreement, the main paramilitary organisations through
their poliical representatives had clearly given an undertaking
that such violence would end.
It is worth noting at this stage that NIACRO's
view about Base2 services is that it is a "fire fighting
service" that we will attempt to maintain as long as people
are under physical threat. We do recognise the political difficulties
inherent in supporting this kind of service, but we believe that
our charitable objectives and values obligate us to continue to
work to ensure that individuals and families are protected, as
far as it is possible, from physical violence.
Since Making Belfast Work funding ended, we
have managed to continue the service through private donations
and some support from the Peace and Reconciliation Programme.
More recently the Base2 programme has taken on a short-term contract
under the asylum seekers programme run by the National Asylum
Support Service. This work is likely to end in October of this
Because of the controversial nature of this
work, we have not actively sought media interest in our work.
Indeed for many years we discouraged such interest. As we are
sure the Committee is aware, the subject of punishment beatings
is a subject of fierce political debate. Furthermore the discussion
of Base2 work could obviously have consequences and risks for
the individuals we were trying to protect. In this context we
felt that to comment publicly on our work could have seriously
damaged our ability to deliver our service. The media substantially
supported us in this wish. Whilst Base2 services were and are
regularly used as background information, our desire to maintain
a confidential and unpublicised service has in large part been
However, we very much want Base2 services to
be examined critically to ensure that they fulfil our objectives.
Currently the programme is being independently evaluated by Professor
Harry Mika from the University of Michigan. We hope his evaluation
will enable NIACRO to continue to improve what we believe is a
very effective and essential service.
Whilst the statistical information presented
in the enclosed reports gives a broad view of the nature of our
work, we would welcome the opportunity to present a more detailed
analysis to the Committee. This would include a description of
the methods Base2 uses to protect persons under threat. We would
also hope to provide the Committee with an insight into the causes
of such threats. This would include a view of the type of individuals
referred to Base2 and the circumstances that exist in their communities
that lead to such referrals.
We believe our work does have implications for
the continued implementation of the Good Friday Agreement, which
we support. NIACRO has and will continue to work to end all political
violence. Base2 is part of those efforts. We look forward to a
time, hopefully in the not too distant future, when the services
of Base2 will no longer be required.
I hope this letter and the enclosed information
provide an introduction to our work. If you require further written
information please let me know. We would also be happy to meet
with the Committee or members of the Committee to provide a more
detailed account of our services and activities.
Finally, it has become clear through Base2 work
that the reintegration of persons excluded from their communities
is now a major priority. This will require delicate local negotiations
together with substantial change in the practice of statutory
agencies, to facilitate reintegration. NIACRO has begun a programme
to support re-entry of persons previously excluded: This work
is funded through Making Belfast Work, supported by the Probation
Service. A detailed report is attached.
24 July 2000
1 See the List of Unprinted Papers, p vi. Back
Evidence not reported. Back