Probation and community sentencing

When a person who has offended receives a Community Order from the court, or leaves prison on Supervised Licence or Order, the Probation Board for Northern Ireland supervises the order or licence for a stated length of time.

Probation supervision

Offenders are likely to be put on probation supervision when:

  • a judge sentences them to a Community Order
  • the Parole Commissioners decide that they can be released into the community on licence
  • they are released from prison after serving the custodial part of their sentence

Community sentences

Community sentencing can give offenders opportunities to make amends for their crime. Community sentencing includes:

  • community service, doing challenging unpaid such as removing graffiti, cleaning up derelict areas or working for charities
  • community supervision, which involves meeting regularly with a probation officer to make sure they comply with their court order, verifying their actions and challenging attitudes and behaviours and seeking to change those attitudes and behaviours
  • abiding with a curfew, where they must stay indoors at certain times, they can be electronically tagged to monitor the curfew
  • doing programmes to address offending behaviour for example drug or alcohol abuse, violent behaviour, sexual offending, domestic violence

If someone being supervised doesn't comply with the Community Order or licence, probation staff will take action. The offender might be returned to court or directly to custody. Sometimes, they might be re-sentenced and sent to prison.

When someone is on probation 

People being supervised by probation must behave as stated in their court order or release licence.  This can include:

  • completing specific programmes
  • completing alcohol and drug treatment
  • staying in approved housing
  • staying away from the area where they committed a crime

If they break these rules, they face enforcement action, which includes being sent to prison. For example, they must go to regular supervision sessions with their probation officer. If they don't go and don't have a valid explanation, they will be returned to court.

Probation officer's role

Probation can supervise 4,400 offenders a day. Their role is to:

  • challenge offending behaviour
  • rehabilitate people who have offended
  • protect the public
  • challenge attitudes and behaviours of people who have offended
  • work with partners to reduce re-offending and keep communities safer
  • work with victims through Probation Board for Northern Ireland Victim Information Scheme

Sentencing and enforcement 

Sentencing and enforcement actions include:

  • indeterminate and extended custodial sentences
  • supervision of prisoners given a sentence of 12 months or longer on release from custody
  • Parole Commissioner deciding release of a certain prisoner
  • Offender Recall Unit
  • strengthened community supervision through electronic monitoring, drug treatment and testing orders
  • approved accommodation

Information for victims

If you're a victim and the person who committed a crime against you is on probation or has a sentence that includes probation, you can register for the Probation Board’s victim information scheme. The scheme allows you to give and receive information about the offender.

If you register, you will receive information about:

  • the offender's sentence
  • how they're supervised on probation
  • discussing your concerns which could inform how the offender is managed
  • other help and support available to you
  • how to volunteer for direct or indirect restorative contact with the offender if this would be helpful with issues resulting from the offence

You can get information in writing, by telephone or in a meeting with a victim liaison officer from the Probabtion Board.

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