Examination of Witnesses (Questions 220-239)|
WEDNESDAY 20 DECEMBER 2000
220. I refer to the statistics. On page six
there is a list of referral agencies. I am not sure what the initials
on the left-hand side stand for, maybe if you can just explain
them to us and state where organisations like Maranatha would
fall in that?
(Ms Lyner) The first one would be social services,
health trusts. The next one is the Probation Board for Northern
221. It is probably sensible if we make clear
that we are dealing with page six.
(Ms Lyner) Absolutely. Then we have the Northern Ireland
Housing Executive. Then we have voluntary organisations. Probably
any one of those that we have referenced there, were it to be
FAIT or the Peace People or Maranatha, would be voluntary. "Comm"
would be community, any level of community grouping. "Self"
is the individual turning up at our door. "Other" is
a catch-all for other. "Training school" would be the
juvenile justice system. Others may also be through the Prison
Service and the clergy who will be wanting to sort it out for
somebody who is returning to an area.
222. That is fruitful in understanding the bodies
that they are associated with. Maybe I could just return briefly
to the client outcome figures on pages five and six. I have been
trying to count up the different sets of numbers to see what balanced.
All along I find that the figures balance with the initial numbers,
apart from when it comes to client outcome. In 1995 the totals
there add up to 171 but there were another 53 that were referred
to elsewhere. In 1996 there were 555 which was only eight short.
In 2000 there are 554, which is 34 short. Presumably there is
some difficulty in assessing the client outcomes and getting all
the details down in connection with them and if there is a bigger
client response in some years than other years that might affect
our understanding of the statistics?
(Ms Lyner) Yes. I am also saying to you that every
figure we have given you here is not safe and that the evaluation
will deal with some of those issues for us. It is also to do with
the voluntary nature of people's relationships with us. They are
under no obligation to do anything that we organise for them or
to come back to the office or have any connection in that way,
so follow-up is a difficult thing. We are doing our best to gather
the information but I think it is important to look at what the
trends are and what the impact on other resources are. That is
what we are left with.
223. I do not want to impose massive extra work
on you because you have been exceptionally helpful with the information
you have already provided, but it does occur to me that in terms
of the passage of time, a client might not necessarily refer back
to the referral agencies, or are you saying they do? In other
words, if you take, as Mr Barnes did a moment ago, a specific
year like 1995, where there was quite a marked discrepancy, would
it be the case that the number of referrals, which was 224, embraces
each of the figures which you have recorded under client outcome
in 1995 even though the client outcome may come some time after
the referral, so that it could easily come in a subsequent year?
(Ms Lyner) That is a very helpful explanation.
(Mr Conway) That could happen.
Chairman: I do not want to put you to massive
work but if, in fact, when you look at the figures they look odd,
you could add any kind of footnote or postscript as to why you
think they might be odd, that would be very helpful.
Mr Beggs: Good afternoon and welcome to our
Committee. I was very pleased today, Chairman, to discover that
Larne was not listed among the statistics.
Mr Pound: Yet.
224. What view does NIACRO take of Community
Restorative Justice Programmes? Does NIACRO seek to work with
these in any particular locations?
(Mr Conway) Going back, again, to basic principles,
we will support any organisation that is working within the field
of the criminal justice system that adheres to basic tenets of
non-violence and subscribes to a human rights value system. That
is the first thing. We do support, and actively support, a variety
of Community Restorative Justice Programmes and we are in the
process of developing our own practice base in relation to providing
our own Restorative Justice Programmes which could take place.
We are pre-empting a discussion and a debate within NIACRO at
the moment but certainly we would see a role for ourselves in
either providing or contributing to a partnership relationship
with other bodies in respect of, for example, Restorative Justice
Programmes or mediation programmes within the prison system in
relation to sex offenders, in relation to schools. I want to stop
there because there is a point four but I have forgotten it, apologies.
Mr Pound: That comes in next year's figures.
225. Thank you.
(Mr Conway) That is very distinct. Those areas of
work have yet to be developed and discussed within NIACRO and
with other organisations.
226. Do those organising these Community Restorative
Justice Programmes actually come to NIACRO before they proceed
to set up their organisations?
(Mr Conway) It varies. Obviously the whole area of
Community Restorative Justice Programmes and Restorative Justice
Programmes in general are reflective very, very significantly
from the Criminal Justice Review. If one was to compare or examine
the landscape five years ago it did not feature at all as an issue,
now you have it incorporated within the Criminal Justice Review.
I am not quite sure, I could speculate as to what the drivers
for that are but clearly there is also an issue of Community Restorative
Justice, i.e. Restorative Justice Programmes, controlled by the
community, in a sense, or control lying within those communities.
Providing that those projects adhere to, again, principles of
non violence and human rights, we would support that and have
quality standards and protocols that are very, very transparent.
227. There has recently been press comment about
research, which has been carried out by Professor Knox and co-workers
at the University of Ulster, into paramilitary intimidation in
Northern Ireland. Has NIACRO had a chance to study any of Professor
Knox's papers on this subject and, if so, does it have any observations
on them? In particular, do his factual findings accord with NIACRO's
(Ms Lyner) Well, what I would have to say at this
stage is that we have only had the opportunity to see the four
page synopsis in the general arena at this stage. I think we would
want at this stage to withhold substantive comment on the article.
I think the synopsis as far as we would view it is both dated
and shallow, especially in terms of the paragraph that referred
to disjointed approach. It references a range of voluntary and
statutory organisations who, as far as we are aware, have not
had significant practice in this area, if ever, but certainly
not for some time, so hence the dating issue. It talks about a
disjointed statutory sector response and certainly that is not
the evidence of our connection with this piece of work in the
last number of years. People have been more or less on board at
different times but we have more or less been able to maintain
the service and keep the level of practice at the level of security
we require. We need to reserve judgment but certainly at this
stage we do have a number of concerns that what has been evidenced
appears to us not to be pertinent to the current moment and in
terms of what is helpful to us in moving on in this difficult
area we do not see it as being particularly so.
Mr Beggs: I am sure if you do complete an assessment
internally on what has been produced we would welcome your fuller
observations. Can I just finish by saying, Chairman, that in my
own experience some of my former wayward pupils were very, very
well reformed through the good work of NIACRO. Thank you.
228. I was wondering whether Mr Beggs' example
led to the criminality or improvement later on. I am sure you
are an example. Good afternoon. Can I just say one of the many
curses of life in Northern Ireland is that from our perspective
it is often viewed through a distorted prism of United Kingdom
life or British life. In most of this country, NIACRO is the National
Association for Care and Rehabilitation of Offenders, which specifically
deals with people who have offended. But a great many of the people
that you deal with do not commit offences, they are victims. Why
do you call yourself NIACRO?
(Ms Lyner) I think you are raising two different issues
here. In terms of the vast body of work that the organisation
does in terms of its training, employment, resettlement, youth
justice work, the work to support families, the vast majority
of the work that it does is with adjudicated offenders and increasingly
(Ms Lyner) In terms of the work that we are doing
within Base 2 there, would be a significant percentage of individuals
also who are both offenders and victims and who have been through
either the criminal justice process or who have not gone through
the criminal justice system but there are bench warrants and other
issues in terms of the activities that they have been involved
with. So they fit on both sides of that, they are offenders on
the one hand and victims on the other.
230. You do not feel there is a problem with
those people who may be victimised entirely on the basis of their
own innocence because of their own religion, creed, colour or
whatever, that they are approaching the organisation which is
predicated for offenders. Do you think there is any problem there?
(Mr Conway) I think for some individuals there may
be a chill factor there. I can recall one incident where it was
very, very clear the person under threat, as with a significant
amount of other people, there was no question they had committed
any offence of any description apart from to have offended a particular
group in a non-criminal way. I cannot recall exactly the case
but it could have been around something said about a particular
group which was not of itself criminal. I think for people in
that sort of situation, yes there are difficulties in terms of
going along to an organisation such as NIACRO, which has a very
clear public remit in terms of dealing with ex-offenders and ex-prisoners.
There may be a chill factor there and we would acknowledge that.
231. I apologise for going back through the
data. I absolutely concur with the statement of the Chairman that
it has been very, very helpful and comprehensive. I think it is
perhaps a reflection of the Members of this Committee that we
have been cross correlating it and adding it up. One of the dramatic
difficulties is that in a quarter of the cases referred to you
where people had a perception of being under paramilitary threat,
no such paramilitary threat actually existed. What happens when
you go back to someone who says "I am the potential victim
of paramilitaries" and you come back or one of your officers
comes back and says "Actually, no", what on earth happens?
(Ms Lyner) It is how that perception has been built
up in their heads that is important. In some situations it may
be that they feel they were seen undertaking some action that
was perhaps inappropriate so they are concerned to check out whether
they have been seen at that. There are other situations where
within neighbourhoods there are ongoing disputes that they are
trying to check out whether or not they are factored into that
ongoing dispute. There are also situations where an individual
is under threat and he would like to go with a group of peers
and suggest to them that they are also under threat. As with all
human nature, there are a range of reasons why people may feel
themselves to be under threat and it is our responsibility to
ensure that before we do spend any resources at any level on relocation
we check out that threat exists and in terms of value for money
we are obviously evidencing that.
232. My final question, you state formally and
for the record that you have no links with paramilitary groups.
Therefore, how do you know that a person is not under paramilitary
(Ms Lyner) It is the same links we use in terms of
affirming if there is one to affirm if there is not one. We put
out contacts through our community contacts to make a view and
make contacts there and to come back to us with an assessment.
The assessment is either yes they are or no they are not. So it
is the same links which bring back the information that they are
which bring back the information that they are not.
233. In the case of demonstrating paramilitary
threat we have all heard of the style of bullets through letterboxes
and graffiti sprayed on front doors and death threats and God
knows what and I think that is fairly tangible. In the case of
establishing that there is not that threat, are you saying that
you have a filtration process where there are people that you
liaise with, that you trust sufficiently, who then liaise with
the paramilitaries who then transmit that information back to
(Ms Lyner) Yes, and they trust us with that information.
234. That was a given.
(Ms Lyner) Over the years we have found that to have
235. And it works?
(Ms Lyner) Yes.
(Mr Conway) If you total the number of cases that
have been dealt with it comes to approximately 4,000, so there
is a significant degree of experience there held between quite
a small number of people.
236. The empirical evidence is what they are
giving you is accurate, there is no element of misinformation
(Mr Conway) No.
Mr Pound: That is very, very impressive. Thank
237. Looking at the figures it seems that in
recent years people have not left the country, they have not left
the city, but, in fact, they have moved to a different area within
the city. That seems to me to be a trend that is developing. Maybe
they live in an area that they do not like or are not happy in,
are you satisfied that they do not use that as a means to try
to move to an area where they would be more happy?
(Mr Conway) Most people who come to us are highly
distressed, that is the first thing. There has been the very,
very odd case of individuals who, if you like, want to go on holiday
to London and bring their friends along. If we say to them "no,
we are not going to acquiesce to that notion. If you are under
threat and want to go through this process, we are saying we will
relocate you somewhere locally whilst making appropriate and as
high quality arrangements as we can make", people sometimes
say "oh, that is fine" and walk away from that. There
have been instances where that has happened. Sorry, could you
repeat the first part of your question? I think you were referring
to the potential for abuse where people might want to relocate
to other areas.
238. Are you satisfied that does not go on,
the abuse of the system to go to a better area?
(Mr Conway) Yes. People can use other avenues to achieve
better housing or better accommodation.
239. Are most of these relocations in public
housing rather than private housing?
(Ms Lyner) Yes. I think the other element to recognise
within all of that in terms of our developing practice is that
in an attempt to put together what is likely to be a useful placement
that will last for some length of time, it is helpful if it is
somewhere close to where people have their family, where they
have their connections, so they do not have to leave some of the
other social networks that they are involved in. So the notion
of not necessarily having to leave Belfast but to go to another
part of Belfast will, in fact, increase the chances of that working
as a placement. If we send them to somewhere in England or to
Ballymena or wherever else, they will be back in their area fairly
quickly. The chances of actually keeping them away, if that is
what they need to be, are improved if there is something that
seems close to what they are used to. That would be our developing
practice and it also costs less.