Today (25th November) probation staff from the Irish Probation Service (PS) and Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) held a Public Protection Advisory Group (PPAG) seminar in PBNI’s offices in Antrim. Both Justice Ministers – Minister David Ford MLA and Minister Alan Shatter TD attended the event, which was also addressed by the Lord Chief Justice of Northern Ireland Sir Declan Morgan.

The PPAG provides a formal structure for the engagement of the PBNI and the PS and strengthens connections with other important stakeholders in the Criminal Justice System including the Department of Justice, Department of Justice and Equality, PSNI, An Garda Síochána, Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Irish Prison Service.

Commenting on today’s event Minister for Justice David Ford said:

"This event helps build co-operation and increases information sharing between criminal justice agencies. Practitioners from both probation services shared examples of best practice and looked at how collaborative working between agencies helps ensure safer communities.

"Amongst the presentations was one on the ‘Inspire’ project, which I had the privilege of visiting and hearing at first hand the work they do with female offenders. This is a probation led project but one which works in partnership with my Department, the Northern Ireland Prison Service, NIACRO and community partners. It has proven to be extremely important in managing female offenders and it is partnerships like this which will help reduce offending and make communities safer."

Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence Alan Shatter commented:

"I am heartened to see the cooperation that is taking place at a practical level between both probation services. The many different initiatives that are being shared between our two jurisdictions are great examples of how services can work together to increase knowledge and experience. In particular, the initiatives shared today in the area of drugs and alcohol misuse will be of great practical benefit to both services in helping to improve programmes for managing offenders with addictions and will in turn help to reduce offending."

The Director of Probation Brian McCaughey added that the event the first of its kind held in Northern Ireland was a practical example of organisations coming together to prioritise cross border work which would benefit people throughout the island of Ireland.

"We are delighted to host this seminar. We have representatives in Antrim from the Probation Board, the Probation Service,  Department of Justice, Department of Justice and Equality, PSNI, An Garda Síochána, Northern Ireland Prison Service and the Irish Prison Service. We are honoured to have the Lord Chief Justice attend and deliver a key note address to delegates.  We have witnessed at first hand the real changes that are being delivered by devolution of policing and justice in Northern Ireland and we all have an opportunity to shape the future of criminal justice through the various reviews that have been initiated by Minister Ford. It is truly significant and symbolic that the Lord Chief Justice and respective Ministers are here today as we consider our work priorities for the coming year."

Director of the Probation Service Michael Donnellan concluded "The Public Protection Advisory Group provides a platform for consistent and meaningful co-operation between all of the criminal justice partners, North and South. This seminar could not have happened without the collaboration of Probation, Police, Garda, Prisons and Justice Departments. The content of today’s presentations reflect and highlight the progress which has been made in developing shared practices, underpinned by research, to maximise our communities’ safety and to reduce victimisation."

After the seminar, the Justice Ministers met under the Inter Governmental Agreement on Criminal Justice Co-operation and discussed a range of issues of ongoing areas of mutual working.


25th November 2011