20k man hours wipe NW convicts’ debts to society

Bishop Street Court House.

Bishop Street Court House.

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Convicts from Londonderry, Limavady and Strabane have repaid their debt to society by working 20,000 hours and delivering reparations worth £130,000 to community institutions such as Bready Cricket Club and North West Life Long Learning over the past year.

Figures compiled for 2013-14 by the Probation Board show that offenders on Community Service in the North West area have completed 338 court orders totalling 20,600 hours of unpaid work to benefit local communities.

Acting Director, Cheryl Lamont said: “PBNI works by changing lives for safer communities and Community Service is a key element in our work.

“It is a visible and practical method of ensuring offenders pay something back to the community while at the same time helping them to develop skills they can use in the future which will prevent them continuing in a cycle of crime.

“Community Service is one of the most successful court sentences in terms of preventing re-offending.

“Three out of four people who complete community service do not re-offend within one year.

“This was recognised in a Criminal Justice Inspection report last year which stated, ‘The value of offenders undertaking unpaid work as reparation for their offending should not be under-estimated and the Community Service scheme has potential to deflect many more people from custody.’”

Area Manager Nicola Barr said: “In the last year 20,600 hours of unpaid work has been delivered equating to a reparative value of over £130,000 to the community.

“Many communities within the North West area have benefitted as a result.

“We supervise offenders who work on a range of projects including placements, environmental clean ups, painting and decorating premises used by community groups, grass cutting and general maintenance such as Age Concern, Northwest Long live Learning, Bready Cricket Club, and Barnardos.

“We also work with Local Councils and provide assistance through Policing and Community Safety Partnerships to develop projects that target the effects of criminal and anti-social behaviour like graffiti removal or neighbourhood clean ups.”

Offenders who carry out this unpaid work are able to give something back to communities, make reparation for the crimes they have committed and develop skills to help change their lives away from a cycle of crime.

Probation Board staff supervise these sentences in a robust manner and if someone breaches their sentence they are returned to court.

“If any community group or member of the public has an idea for a project that offenders could work on for the benefit of your community, they can nominate a project for offenders to undertake at www.pbni.org.uk or you can email us at this address: communityservice@pbni.gsi.gov.uk “