A new pilot – focussed on changing the behaviours of those who are convicted of domestic violence related offences - has been launched today at Londonderry Magistrates’ Court.
The pilot will allow the Judge to refer offenders - who have been convicted of a domestic violence or abuse offence - to an intensive and innovative new Domestic Violence Perpetrators’ Programme (DVPP) before sentencing.
The programme will seek to modify perpetrators’ behaviours and reduce reoffending. It is also hoped that more victims will be encouraged to report these crimes in the knowledge that their partners may be given an opportunity to get help through the availability of the programme.
It will require offenders, who have been assessed as suitable, to complete an intensive therapeutic behaviour change programme delivered by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI).
To avail of the programme, offenders must accept that their behaviour is harmful, unacceptable and needs to change.
Department of Justice Permanent Secretary, Nick Perry said: “This innovative pilot is designed to challenge individuals to truly confront their offending behaviour. It will allow the judge to hold offenders directly accountable for their actions, to challenge them, and to support them to change.
“This new pilot will undoubtedly supplement the excellent work already being undertaken in Londonderry Magistrates’ Court through the domestic violence and abuse listing arrangement. Ultimately, this programme, working alongside a number of other Problem Solving Justice initiatives, will help to create a safe community for Northern Ireland where we respect the law, and each other.”
Offenders will be closely monitored by the judge, who will speak directly to them at monthly hearings, where he will review their compliance with programme requirements. Progress on the programme will be taken into account when determining an offender’s sentence.
A maximum of 30 offenders will be able to participate in the pilot, which is expected to run for approximately nine months.
Speaking about the programme Dr Geraldine O’Hare, Head of Psychology Services and Interventions PBNI, said: "We must work with perpetrators of domestic violence if we are to challenge their behaviour and the choices they make, in order to reduce the number of victims in our society and make Northern Ireland a safe place to live.
“This innovative problem solving programme, allows us to work intensively with offenders, to address the root causes of their behaviour and the crimes committed, and to rehabilitate them in the community."
Addressing the needs of victims is also vital to the process. A specialist link worker from Women’s Aid will provide victims with practical support whilst their partner is engaged with the programme.
Marie Brown Director of Foyle Woman’s Aid commented: “A key aspect of the programme is to ensure that the victims of abuse within the family are supported. The protection of victims is paramount within this programme and the role of the link worker is specifically designed to carry out this task.”
The initiative is one of a series of pilots being brought forward by the Department of Justice under its Problem Solving Justice approach, which seeks to find ways to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour.
Notes to editors:
For further information on Problem Solving Justice initiatives go to www.nidirect.gov.uk/articles/background-problem-solving-justice
2. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 07623974383 and your call will be return.
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