Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland

  PBNI has and will continue to fund a range of community projects but Base II was—until November 2000—the only project which was specifically targeted at individuals who were or who claimed to be the subject of paramilitary intimidation. I understand that you have been provided with the relevant statistics in relation to Base II activities—so I will not repeat them again.

  The Base II Project was established in 1990 in an attempt to assist individuals who were victims or potential victims of paramilitary "community policing" attention. The outcome of the "community policing" attention included assaults on the individuals or exclusion from the local area or Northern Ireland.

  From the beginning, PBNI had mixed feelings about supporting a project which could, in effect, facilitate paramilitaries to exercise what we saw as a totally illegitimate "policing" act. On balance we considered that we should fund the project on the basis that it had a limited life-span. When the cease-fires were declared by the various paramilitary organisations, our long-standing understanding and misgivings were thrown into sharp focus. We were of the view that we could no longer support a project which, for the best possible reasons, could be seen to be given even tacit and tangential support to the victimisation of individuals, especially young people.

  Following discussions with NIACRO and taking into account the wider political developments, PBNI instructed staff in July 1998 that they should no longer make referrals to the Base II project. Our analysis at that time suggested a high correlation between non-adherence to the conditions of PBNI clients' probation order and his/her involvement in anti-social behaviour which brought them to the attention of the community and hence the paramilitaries. Our staff were instructed to breach clients quickly who were not meeting the requirements of the order, thus using the criminal justice system to deal with both a legal and the community perception of a problem. The slowness of the formal system was and is problematic in this regard.

  If the young person was on bail, our advice was to surrender him/herself to the police and explain that he/she no loner wished to avail of bail. All of these options were to be discussed with management in each individual case. If the situation could not be managed in this way, the PBNI staff would use whatever resources were necessary to ensure the safety of the individual concerned. One cardinal point for consideration was that prior to moving an individual outside the Northern Ireland jurisdiction, a check would be made with the RUC regarding outstanding charges, bail conditions etc.

  In 2000 NIACRO secured funding through the Belfast Regeneration Office for a three-year Community Re-integration Programme. This funding was transferred to NIACRO through PBNI. The aim of the programme is to provide a co-ordinating role enabling all agencies and communities to creatively manage young people who would be at risk of paramilitary violence in a positive and non-violent way thus enabling them to remain in and as part of their local community.

  The aim of the project is to create a bridge between voluntary and statutory agencies linked to or working with the criminal justice system—Probation and Social Services, Youth Justice, Northern Ireland Housing Executive, RUC and NIACRO.

  PBNI firmly believes that intimidation of young people as a way of attempting to positively change their behaviour is wrong and can never be justified. It is also PBNI's view that statutory or voluntary organisations should not, either by omission or commission, do anything or support any project which would facilitate such intimation or coercion.

29 January 2001

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