Examination of Witnesses (Questions 140-159)|
WEDNESDAY 20 DECEMBER 2000
NOTE: Part of
this evidence consisted of a presentation which included projected
material. Updated and amended versions of the data provided in
this way of the evidence session may be found at Appendix 8, p
93. Statistics given in the oral evidence were, in some instances,
provisional and may therefore differ slightly from those in Appendix
140. Let me welcome those of you who have come
to give us evidence from NIACRO. We were given five names as to
those who were coming, which is why there are five names set out.
In a moment, when I invite you to say something, it might be helpful
to know whether it is simply a case of Banquo's ghost or whether
somebody is going to arrive, or Banquo himself is going to arrive
half way through. Let me say what I usually say and then we will
come on to the particular technology and the particular circumstances
of today's meeting. First of all, you are very welcome and we
appreciate your having come at fairly short notice to give evidence,
which is extremely helpful to the Committee. We would in any case
have given you the opportunity to say anything you might wish
to say at the beginning, and I will come back to that in a moment
when we talk about the particular circumstances of today. We will
endeavour to make our questions follow a logical order. They may
come from different parts of the horseshoe. If at any stage you
want to gloss any answer you have given, either orally today or
in writing afterwards, because you feel we might have misunderstood
or there is extra information we ought to have, please do not
hesitate to do that. In exactly the same way, if we have got a
supplementary question which we recognise we ought to have asked
when we see the transcript, then we will reserve the right to
put that particular supplementary to you in writing thereafter.
I do appreciate that we have probably made things more difficult
for you by having to say that what I would call overhead projections
are more difficult for a Select Committee to cope with simply
because it is not just an exercise in our understanding what you
are saying, it is an exercise in our recording as written evidence,
which then becomes part of the report, everything that is said
to us. While we have never taken evidence in this way before,
occasionally other Committees have and it is, therefore, within
the discretion of the individual Committee whether it will do
so. We are so appreciative of your coming at short notice that
we have sought to accommodate the technology. I understand that
you would have liked to have given quite a long presentation.
As a compromise we have suggested that you should make a presentation
for five minutes, including using overhead material, which we
will not interrupt, we will not ask any questions arising during
that period. Thereafter, in giving answers, if there are illustrations
of what you are saying that you want to put on the screen, we
are quite content for that to happen. In order to make life tolerable
for our shorthand writers we are going to have to be involved
in making references to what appears on the screen in a way that
will make the evidence traceable thereafter. You can see how this
actually slightly complicates the situation for everybody involved
on our side. If you are ready to give the initial presentation
then please do so. I am going to be tight on time because I do
know that we have got nine Members of the Committee here and we
have got to get through the questions we want to ask you. Therefore,
if you use up too much time at the beginning we may run into the
problem of not being able to complete our side. All of that said,
a very warm welcome to you. Please do not hesitate to address
us. It would be helpful if you would just deal with the question
of Banquo's ghost before we start.
(Ms Lyner) Banquo is very much here. Fergus Cooper
is here, he is helping us with the technology, and Jeff Maxwell
and Miceal McParland are here with us.
141. But they are not giving evidence?
(Ms Lyner) No.
142. That explains it.
(Ms Lyner) Thank you very much for the opportunity
to be here today. It was not our intention to complicate matters
either but, having looked at the evidence that you had received
from other groups that you had been speaking to on this topic,
we were aware that one of the things you were looking for was
some element of statistical information and some focus on what
was the quantity, the size of the problem. As you have correctly
said, if we do not get to that in terms of the presentation, as
we go through some of the discussion we will be able to flit backwards
and forwards and make reference to some of the material we have
attempted to prepare for you. To move on, it is important for
us to explain a little bit about NIACRO itself, the organisation.
At this stage we are working from the hand-out here. It is a voluntary
organisation with a mission statement which focuses its work to
achieve a just, humane and effective criminal justice system in
an inclusive and peaceful society. We are an independent, non-profit
making voluntary organisation, seeking to work as an agent of
social change. I then identify for you the four main aims of the
organisation: the care and resettlement of offenders; the prevention
of crime; support for the families and dependants of serving prisoners;
and to campaign for a just, humane and effective criminal justice
system. In this area of work we are hitting at least two, if not
three, of those aims in the care and resettlement of offenders,
the prevention of crime itself and supporting some of those families
who have to move. Against that it is important for you to understand
that as an organisation we are working to a number of values and
principles. I outline those for you there: justice, equality,
care, trust and accountability, social responsibility, quality
and non-violence. I suppose in any piece of work we would prove
which are the most relevant values for the piece of work that
we are doing. In this situation non-violence is obviously a key.
We are on record as an organisation that does not see any place
for violence in our society and, therefore, that would be the
issue we would be flagging up first. Obviously we are also there
to care for the individuals. We are driven by humanitarian principles.
In terms of the service that we do deliver, we are attempting
to deliver that to the best possible quality. Those would be the
three values that we would see enshrined in this service.
(Mr Conway) I want to address the problems of exclusion
and a very, very brief overview. The problems of exclusions, punishment
shootings and punishment beatings have been evidenced by the RUC
since 1972. It has been a problem that has been endemic throughout
the history of the last practically 30 years. I want to address
the history and establishment of Base 2, which is a project within
NIACRO. Base 2 was established in 1990 with the support of a variety
of statutory, voluntary and community organisations. There was
a perceived need that there were many young people, particularly
those in the 16-25 age range, who were being affected by beatings,
shootings and exclusions. Base 2 was set up in December 1990.
It was funded from a trust source initially. The nature of the
problem was such, I think, that statutory organisations at that
time were not willing to deal directly with the issue in terms
of offering possible solutions, so NIACRO, as a significant voluntary
organisation in Northern Ireland, hosted the Base 2 project. In
essence that is the history of how Base 2 started. We go on to
the operational guidelines.
143. You have got another minute but do not
feel you need to.
(Mr Conway) At the very beginning, because of the
nature of the work and the clients we were dealing with, and also
given the environmental and political culture at the time, it
became evident very quickly that there was a need to establish
very solid operational guidelines. These guidelines were rooted
in principles of non-violence and human rights. There was to be
undertaken a comprehensive risk assessment in each individual
case. It was very clear that the project had to operate within
the legal framework, that it could not operate outside of that.
Key to the whole process was ensuring that the principle of confidentiality
was adhered to, with the exception of danger to others, and that
relates particularly to people who might have informed staff that
they have committed crimes against children or young people. The
service was to be non-judgmental. Maintenance in the community
was a preferred option. There should be an acknowledgement and
account taken of the negative effects of cultural dislocation.
If somebody had to be excluded, if you like, the ideal response
or host organisation, or host system, would be able to offer adequate
finance to support the individual or the family's housing accommodation,
advice being given in an ongoing way. Education, training and
employment opportunities should be made available. There should
be a welcoming social network and there should be maintenance
of family or partnership ties. If you like, that is the essence
of the ideal response to those who have to leave the jurisdiction
of Northern Ireland.
144. I think, if I may say so, you just slopped
over at the end but I interrupted you as well. I think that was
admirably done. The first ground clearing question I am going
to ask is one which you have effectively already answered but
I will still ask it, not least because with slightly more time
you may want to expand your answer. As I understand it, you have
been involved since 1990?
(Ms Lyner) Yes.
145. When the decision was taken for you to
become involved, was that by invitation or was that by a decision
on your part that it was a sensible role for you to undertake?
(Mr Conway) It was a decision that was taken by NIACRO
to host the Base 2 project. Essentially the agencies in London
had become aware that there were young people coming over from
Northern Ireland who had been driven out so, if you like, that
sector came to Northern Ireland and said "this is a problem,
we have resources to fund that" and essentially Base 2 was
formed. A station was needed to house it, if you like, and NIACRO
offered to house the project.
146. I may be going over ground which again
is elsewhere but it is helpful to have it on the record in terms
of this particular examination. When you say people in London,
I infer from that you are talking about private sector/charitable
(Mr Conway) Yes.
147. It was not, in fact, anything official?
(Mr Conway) No.
(Ms Lyner) No, but if I could just add to that. I
think it is important to recognise that when that approach was
made, the approach was made to an inter-agency grouping of statutory
and voluntary organisations concerned also in Northern Ireland
with the fact that young people were living under that form of
threat and either moving around within Northern Ireland or moving
from Northern Ireland to other places. There was a place for that
concern that was coming from London to be received within the
context of an inter-agency statutory, voluntary response. We,
as NIACRO, were part of that, which was how the offer to host
was made and came to be realised.
148. Did that emerge out of a debate within
the inter-agency body or was it an offer that you made direct
to the interested party? In other words, was there a debate in
Northern Ireland as to who was best qualified to do it?
(Mr Conway) There was. The actual name of the body
was called Interact which was a composition of probation, social
services, community and voluntary sector representation. The issue
had been discussed within that body and was open to receiving
an input from the London side.
149. Has the cost of running it changed significantly
over the period? I am talking about Base 2.
(Ms Lyner) No.
(Mr Conway) Average.
(Ms Lyner) In the early years we were very restricted
by the fact that it was all charitable monies. After a relatively
short period we were attracting money through routes of Making
Belfast Work and other appropriate channels. While the costs may
have fluctuated by £10,000 from the highest to the lowest,
they have maintained themselves at fairly much the same level
throughout its history.
150. Remind us of the bracket.
(Ms Lyner) We are talking about somewhere between
£65,000 and £80,000 a year, the operation which we are
(Mr Conway) It has to be acknowledged that there was
a lead-in period of two to three years. The first year of the
project would have essentially funded a salary and then the person,
who happened to be myself at that time, had to fund-raise service
151. That sounds familiar from other projects.
(Mr Conway) It was a gradual increase in terms of
funding. The platform currently is around the order of between
£60,000 and £80,000 a year.
152. Do I infer that in so far as there has
been a change in the mix between charitable and statutory funding
of one sort or another that that has been reasonably organic,
in other words it has not oscillated sharply between the two components?
(Ms Lyner) It is something that has fluctuated throughout
the years. There was a period that was trust funding at the beginning.
There was then a period of three years when there was Making Belfast
Work money, there was a year when there was money from the Probation
Board and a period when we were looking for trust money. We are
back on a more even keel at this stage with the element of statutory
and trust funding. It has oscillated through a range of different
opportunities but NIACRO has always been committed to securing
the resources to be able to provide the level of service that
was coming to our door.
153. And you are now in a state of approximate
(Ms Lyner) For this year.
154. Good afternoon. Continuing on the Base
2 project, how many staff does NIACRO have working on the Base
2 project and, of these, how many are full-time fieldworkers?
(Ms Lyner) There are three to four staff connected
with the project and two of those staff would be fieldworkers.
155. Two out of between three and four?
(Ms Lyner) Yes.
156. How does NIACRO go about assisting those
intimidated? What, if any, operational guidelines are issued to
those who work in this area?
(Mr Conway) If I can address in more detail the operational
guidelines that I hope you have in front of you.
157. We have got copies.
(Mr Conway) It will be page two, the second overhead.
First of all, in terms of the broad principles, Base 2 operates
adhering to principles of non-violence and human rights. That
is the bottom line in terms of the running of the project. It
is also non-judgmental, it does not make a judgment in terms of
the individual. It seeks to provide a service that essentially
will ensure that the individual who may be under threat does not
actually sustain injury, exclusion or worse. Those are the broad
aims. There are three phases to how individuals are actually dealt
with. The first one, or phase one, is the immediate referral,
where somebody actually comes to the project. We would regard
it as our job to verify, to assist the individual to make an informed
choice. We do not say to people "here is what you should
do". Ultimately the individual, himself or herself, decide
what they will do. We would try and inform them as much as possible
in terms of the information that we gather, that "here is
what is going on in your immediate environment", but ultimately
it is up to that person to make the choice. In terms of phase
two, we would be carrying out in effect a risk assessment in terms
of the context, the nature of the threat and the potential restrictions,
if somebody had, for example, bail restrictions. In many of these
cases the individuals have court restrictions or they have court
appearances pending, so we would not knowingly remove somebody
from this jurisdiction. Until all other avenues or options were
exhausted we would not relocate somebody outside the jurisdiction
without ensuring that matters such as outstanding court appearances,
bench warrants, bail restrictions, were addressed formally. We
are very, very clear. That goes back to the principle of operating
within the legal framework, that we will not ship people off and
spirit them away from due process. We are very clear about maintaining
individuals in the community as long as they are safe. It was
very clear, particularly during the early part of the project's
life, that individuals who rushed off or who were exiled felt
they had to leave the jurisdiction of Northern Ireland to go,
for example, to London, and that decision was taken in the space
of 24 hours. Very often individuals who were faced with the threat
were given a time frame to leave the jurisdiction. We regarded
it as important to slow that individual or family down because
many individuals cannot survive outside their own, if you like,
cultural environment. One of the concerns that was expressed by
the initial trust funders was that young people were coming over
to LondonLondon was the most often quoted exampleill
prepared with no support systems and they were likely to do what
they were good at doing in, say, Belfast, which could be stealing
cars or burglaries or committing further crime. By not carrying
out a risk assessment we, or anybody who just puts somebody on
a boat or a plane or a bus, were probably adding to that individual's
problem. We regard it as very important to try to slow the process
down and, if need be, get people away from the immediate source
of the threat, or the area of the threat, and make a considered
and informed judgment on the basis of as much information as we
can gather both about the threat and what they actually face in
terms of the threat and their ability to survive in what is, in
effect, for them another culture.
(Ms Lyner) If I can just add a couple of points to
that. The first question was to do with quality. I would like
just to assure you that in terms of the staff who are working
in that, we have a set of staff policies and guidelines that the
staff are working to. A pro forma takes each case through a set
of questions to ensure the age of the individual, whether there
are children involved in the process, what types of offences they
have been through in the past, whether there are issues of sexual
offending and whether we need to be alerting ourselves to other
procedures if they need to be called into place. Those are procedures
that have been operating in the project throughout its lifetime.
158. In assessing whether somebody can stay
in the community, do you have any communication with the paramilitary
organisations that may be involved in attacking them?
(Ms Lyner) How we organise the verification is to
talk to contacts we have within the community, not directly with
organisations but people who have contacts, and those lines of
communication come back to us. Over the period of years that we
have been operating the project we have not got back misinformation
from that process. In terms of understanding the discreet and
confidential service that we have been trying to operate, it has
been important that we do it in a process that has us at some
distance from the range of players. That is also important in
terms of individual and staff protection.
Mr Thompson: Thank you very much.
159. Can I draw attention to the second display
on page three that you handed to us. I want to raise a number
of questions about statistical information. I was going to ask
you about referrals. You have given us that in tabulated form
and obviously the most striking feature is the very significant
increase in the number of referrals, which has more than doubled,
perhaps nearly tripled, in the space of six years. The low number
of referrals pre-1994, to some extent does that reflect the low
level of funding which then limited your operation?
(Ms Lyner) I think there are a number of things and
statistics are useful to tell the story of what is behind them.
Certainly we recognise that the project was established late in
1990 and had a gestation period of a couple of years, talking
about a build up of networks, of contacts for people. That would
be one element, not necessarily the level of funding but the level
of being known about, being seen as a resource for individuals
to be able to make use of that. There are other things as we look
towards this year, for example, in terms of the activity on the
Shankill and the Loyalist feuds that affect numbers as well. Particularly
it is the fact that our practice and people's understanding of
what we can offer and how we can offer it has grown over the years.