North Down MP, Lady Hermon, has called on the Government to give greater support and resources to the Probation Service, particularly in Northern Ireland. Speaking from Westminster, she said:
“We currently have too many prisoners for our prisons, and high rates of re-offending and reconviction. Despite this, we’re not providing necessary or adequate support to the Probation Service. Although it is staffed by skilled professionals with a wealth of experience, the Government seriously undervalues its contribution in preventing crime. If Probation Officers are unable to provide intervention in fledgling criminal lives, those lives will become full-blown criminal lives, and our society will inevitably suffer.
“Probation staff ought, for example, to be given greater flexibility on Court reports. In Northern Ireland, the Probation Service is still required to provide full pre-sentence reports on defendants, where one in six would be suitable for shorter specific sentence reports. In addition, we don’t have expedited Court reports in Northern Ireland, even though they are used regularly in England and Wales. Their introduction locally would certainly free up resources, which could usefully be deployed elsewhere.
“So, instead of releasing prisoners early and building more and more prisons, the Government would be much better advised to strengthen the Probation Service and make better use of its dedicated professionals.”
June 19th, 2007