Victim information schemes

If you are a victim in Northern Ireland and the offender who committed a crime against you is in prison, hospital or on probation you can register to receive and give information about them. You could learn the offender’s release date and give an opinion on temporary release applications.

Three victim information schemes

Victim information schemes are voluntary. You won't be told about an offender's release unless you register with an information scheme.If the offender who committed a crime against you has been found guilty and sentenced the police and the Public Prosecution Service’s Victim and Witness Care Unit will give you information about the relevant victim information scheme.

There are three victim information schemes in Northern Ireland. Staff work in the Probation Board for Northern Ireland’s (PBNI) Victim Information Unit. If the offender has been:

  • sentenced to time in prison - you can register for the Prisoner Release Victim Information Scheme (PRVIS)
  • given probation - you can register for the Probation Board Victim Information Scheme
  • given a hospital restriction order - you can register for the Mentally Disordered Offenders Victim Information Scheme

If the offender has been sentenced to prison and probation, you should register for both the prisoner release and probation board schemes. There may also be times when a prisoner is transferred from prison to hospital to receive treatment for a mental illness. While they are in hospital, victims who register will also be kept informed of the details of their case.

Prisoner Release Victim Information Scheme (PRVIS)

The Prisoner Release Victim Information Scheme (PRVIS) gives victims the opportunity to provide and receive information about the prisoners who have been convicted of a crime against them.

Eligibility

You can register for the scheme if:

  • you were the victim of a crime
  • you are the next of kin or had a close relationship with a victim who has died as a result of a crime
  • you are acting on behalf of the victim – you will usually need to provide the written consent of the victim

The offender who committed a crime against you or the victim you are representing must be:

  • over 18 or must reach the age of 18 while still in custody
  • serving a prison sentence of six months or more
  • sentenced or permanently transferred to serve their sentence in Northern Ireland

Information you’ll receive

If you register, you will receive information about:

  • any temporary release the prisoner is granted
  • the month and year in which a prisoner is expected to be released
  • any conditions of the prisoner’s release
  • any breaches of those conditions which result in the prisoner’s return to custody

In the case of life sentence prisoners:

  • the minimum number of years the life prisoner must serve
  • when the life prisoner is being considered for release
  • the opportunity to give your views when the life prisoner is considered for final release

As prisoners approach the end of their sentence, they can be considered for periods of temporary release to help them prepare for their return to the community. If you have registered with the scheme, you will be invited to give your views on any applications the prisoner makes for temporary release. Your views will be taken into account during consideration of any release and if granted any conditions to be imposed on the prisoner.

A prisoner can make an application for compassionate temporary release at anytime. If you have given your views, they will be taken into account.

You should note however that it may not always be possible to give you information before a prisoner’s temporary release. On occasions, urgent applications may be considered on compassionate grounds. In these cases, you may be told of temporary release after it has happened.

How to register

To register to join the scheme, go to:

If you’d like to register for both the PRVIS and Probation Board schemes, you can fill in the Probation Board Victim Information Scheme form.

Completed forms can be emailed or posted to the Victim Information Unit

What happens next

Once your completed registration has been received, your details will be confirmed with the police or prosecutor involved in the case. The Victim Information Unit may need to contact you to get further information.

If your registration is approved, you will be contacted by the unit and given more information on how the scheme will work.

The offender will not be informed of this registration.

If it is decided that giving out the information could put the victim or the offender at risk, the information will not be shared.

Probation Board Victim Information Scheme

The Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) Victim Information Scheme gives victims information on the offender who committed a crime against them in cases where the offender is not given a prison sentence but is supervised in the community by the Probation Board.

Eligibility

You can register with the scheme if the offender who committed a crime against you has been sentenced to probation and:

  • you were the victim of a crime
  • you are the next of kin or had a close relationship with a victim who has died as a result of a crime
  • you are acting on behalf of the victim – you will usually need to provide the written consent of the victim

Information you’ll receive

If you register, you will receive information about:

  • the offender's sentence
  • general information about the supervision of offenders on probation
  • other help and support available to you

Information can be provided to you in writing, by phone or in a face-to-face meeting with a Victim Liaison Officer (VLO).

You will also have the opportunity to:

  • discuss your concerns about the offender
  • be involved in direct or indirect restorative contact with the offender if you wish
  • take part in the preparation of a victim report for the Parole Commissioners

Restorative contact seeks to help the victims of crime come to terms with what has happened to them by giving them the opportunity to contact the offender who committed the crime against them. This could be through indirect contact, like exchanging messages or letters or direct contact where a victim will meet an offender. The contact is voluntary and will only happen if both the victim and the offender agree to it.

How to register

You can register to join the scheme by completing the online application form below.

Alternatively you can fill out the application form in the leaflet below and return to the Victim Information Unit.

You can also use this form to register for the PRVIS scheme.

Completed forms can be emailed or posted to the Victim Information Unit

What happens next

Once your completed registration has been received, your details will be confirmed with the police or prosecutor involved in your case. The Victim Information Unit may need to contact you to get further information.

If your registration is approved you will be contacted by the unit and given more information on how the scheme will work.

If it is decided that giving out the information could put the victim or the offender at risk, the information will not be shared.

Mentally Disordered Offenders Victim InformationScheme

If the person who committed a crime against you is sent to hospital under a restriction order, you can register to receive some information about them while they are in hospital and when they could be released.

Restriction orders

When an offender has a mental illness the court may send them to hospital instead of prison for their crime. The court will also look at the nature of the offence and the risk of further offending. If it thinks there is a serious risk of harm to the public it may also sentence the person to a restriction order.

A restriction order means that the Department of Justice (DoJ) must approve any temporary leave from hospital. They or the Mental Health Review Tribunal may release the offender from hospital once they have received treatment for their illness.

Eligibility

You can register with the scheme if the offender who committed a crime against you has been given a hospital restriction order and:

  • you were the victim of a crime
  • you are the next of kin or had a close relationship with a victim who has died as a result of a crime
  • you are acting on behalf of the victim – you will usually need to provide the written consent of the victim

Information you’ll receive

If you register, you will receive information about:

  • any temporary leave of absence from hospital, which will form part of the offenders rehabilitation programme and may also be for compassionate reasons
  • absolute or conditional release including any relevant conditions the offender may be bound by

You will also have the opportunity to give your thoughts and opinions to the organisation responsible for granting the offender temporary leave or a release from hospital.

Sometimes temporary leave may be needed urgently and it is not always possible to let victims know before, but you will be told as soon as possible.

How to register

You can register for the scheme by completing the application form below or by contacting the Victim Information Unit directly by post or telephone.

Completed forms can be emailed or posted to the Victim Information Unit

What happens next

Once your registration is received, your details will be confirmed with the police or prosecutor involved in your case. The Victim Information Unit may need to contact you to get further information.

If your registration is approved you will be contacted by the unit and given more information on how the scheme will work.

The offender will not be informed of this registration.

If it is decided that giving out the information could put the victim or the offender at risk, the information will not be shared.

Victim representation

If you don’t want to register with the schemes yourself, you can ask a family member or a close friend to register for you.

If you don’t have anyone who can act on your behalf, you can contact Victim Support NI. They can appoint someone to act as your independent representative.

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