Agencies involved in criminal justice
The criminal justice system in Northern Ireland is made up of several agencies and departments. Together they are responsible for the administration of justice and maintaining law and order. They also share responsibility for detecting and stopping crime, dealing with offenders and overseeing the work of prisons.
Police Service of Northern Ireland
The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) came into being in November 2001, following recommendations made by the Independent Commission on Policing. The police are responsible for detecting and investigating crime and also play an important part, along with other organisations, in preventing and reducing criminal activity.
The work of the police is overseen by the Northern Ireland Policing Board, which sets plans and targets and monitors performance. The Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland independently investigates complaints against the police.
For more details on the work of the police follow the links below:
- The Police Service of Northern Ireland (contacts section)
- Northern Ireland Policing Board (contacts section)
- Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland (contacts section)
Public Prosecution Service
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is headed by the Director of Public Prosecutions who decides independently whether or not to prosecute people for committing criminal offences. The PPS decides what the charges should be and is responsible for prosecuting the case at court.
Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service
The Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (NICTS) is an Agency of the Department of Justice. It is responsible for the operation of 21 courthouses and a number of tribunal hearing centres across Northern Ireland.
The role of the NICTS is to:
- provide administrative support for all courts and those tribunals for which the NICTS is currently responsible
- support an independent judiciary
- enforce civil court judgments through the Enforcement of Judgments Office
While the core business of the NICTS is the provision of administrative support for the courts and tribunals, it is also responsible for
- the Coroners Service for Northern Ireland
- the Court Funds Office – which manages funds held in court on behalf of minors and patients
- Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service (contacts section)
Northern Ireland Prison Service
The Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS) is responsible for providing prison services in Northern Ireland. Its aim is to keep those committed to prison by the courts in secure, safe and humane custody. By working with prisoners and with organisations, NIPS seeks to reduce the risk of re-offending and as a result, aims to protect the public.
The Prison Service currently has three operational establishments:
- HMP Maghaberry is a modern high security prison that houses long-term adult male and remand prisoners in both separated and integrated conditions.
- HMP Magilligan is a medium security prison that houses shorter term adult male prisoners. Magilligan also has low security accommodation for selected prisoners who are nearing the end of their sentences
- HM Prison and Young Offenders' Centre, Hydebank Wood is a medium to low security facility for sentenced young male offenders and all female prisoners, which includes female immigration detainees.
- Prisons in Northern Ireland
- Northern Ireland Prison Service (contacts section)
Probation Board for Northern Ireland
The Probation Board is a Non Departmental Public Body (NDPB) of the Department of Justice (DOJ). The functions of PBNI are set out in the Probation Board (Northern Ireland) Order 1982 and further responsibilities are outlined in the Criminal Justice (Northern Ireland) Orders 1996, 2005 and 2008.
Key elements of PBNI's work are:
- assessing convicted offenders and preparing reports for Courts, Parole Commissioners and others
- supervising court orders and licences in the community
- providing a range of services and interventions to prisoners
- providing a Victim Information Scheme to any person who is the direct victim of a criminal offence where the offender has been put under probation supervision
- working alongside the police, prison service and other agencies to manage risks posed by the most serious offenders as part of the Public Protection Arrangements Northern Ireland (PPANI)
Forensic Science Northern Ireland
The role of Forensic Science Northern Ireland (FSNI) as stated in their mission statement is to provide effective, impartial forensic science in support of fairer, faster justice. The majority of FSNI work is submitted from PSNI, although other customers include the State Pathologist's Department, the Police Ombudsman’s office and a number of private customers.
The Compensation Agency operates statutory schemes for compensating victims of crime who have been physically and/or mentally injured or who are a dependant or relative of a deceased victim. Compensation for criminal damage to property can be awarded in certain defined circumstances where it was malicious or caused by terrorism.
Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland
CJI is an independent statutory inspectorate with responsibility for inspecting all aspects of the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland apart from the judiciary. It also inspects a number of other agencies and organisations that link into the criminal justice system.
CJI uses inspection to help strengthen public confidence in the agencies that make up the criminal justice system.
It endeavours through its work to promote the effectiveness, efficiency and even-handedness of the criminal justice system. It also seeks to secure improvement and greater co-operation between the various statutory and voluntary organisations to provide a better justice system for the whole community in Northern Ireland.
Youth Justice Agency
The Youth Justice Agency's purpose is to make communities safer by helping children to stop offending. The Agency works with children aged 10-17 years who have offended or are at serious risk of offending.
The Agency delivers a range of services, often in partnership with others. These include diversionary interventions through a network of community-based offices, youth conferencing (a restorative process in which victims have a say) and custody for the most serious offenders.
National crime bodies
A number of agencies work across national boundaries in the UK:
Serious Organised Crime Agency
SOCA tackles serious organised crime that affects the UK and our citizens. This includes class A drugs, people smuggling and human trafficking, major gun crime, fraud, computer crime and money laundering. SOCA works to put serious criminals behind bars and uses many tactics to fight crime to keep the public safe. SOCA uses traditional law enforcement methods such as investigating and arresting criminals but we also draw on new innovative approaches to prevent the crimes happening in the first place.
Serious Fraud Office
Employing teams of lawyers, accountants, police officers and other specialists, the Serious Fraud Office investigates and prosecutes serious and complex fraud in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For more information on the work of these agencies, follow the links below:
UK Border Agency
The UK Border Agency is a law enforcement agency responsible for controlling migration in the UK. As an agency of the Home Office, it is responsible for immigration casework, visa applications, in-country enforcement activity, the immigration detention estate and our overseas immigration and visa operations
The Border Force is a law enforcement command within the Home Office responsible for protecting the UK border. Border Force was created on 1 March 2012 after being separated from the UK Border Agency.
Border Force is responsible for entry controls and customs functions at the UK border, including our juxtaposed controls in France and Belgium, covering responsibilities including immigration and security checks, prevention of people trafficking, anti-smuggling of banned and restricted goods including drugs and weapons and protection of border revenue.