- Brian Rowntree, PBNI Chairman to 30 November 04
Brian is the Chairman of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland.
"As Chairman of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland it gives me great pleasure on behalf of the Probation Board and the Probation and Welfare Service in the Republic to welcome you to Armagh this morning to the launch of the PROTECT North & South Project.
This exciting new initiative has been born from the strong informal links that have existed for many years between the two probation services in the different parts of the island of Ireland. Both partners are aware that improved design, delivery and co-ordination of services will contribute to enhance public protection. This has become more imperative with the increasing movement of offenders across the two jurisdictions.
However, while there has been contact between the two main partners, there have been neither the circumstances nor the resources to formalise and develop this contact. Evolving political structures and new programmes such as the EU Programme for Peace and Reconciliation have provided a springboard to allow this much-needed sharing of knowledge, skills, practice and resources to develop. I want to publicly thank and acknowledge the support and funding of the Special European Union Programmes Body in enabling this project to develop. This financial support endorses the value of the project in contributing to peace and reconciliation across Ireland.
We live in a time when there is much fear of crime in local communities. Findings from national research such as the Northern Ireland Crime Survey show that this fear is increasing. Recent Annual reports from PSNI and Garda confirm the public’s fear with regard to violent and sexual offending. Both PBNI and PWS have ongoing contact with local communities who consistently indicate that offending and fear of violent crime are high on their agenda. Protection of the community from crime and the harm it does is vital. The development of initiatives that reduce crime but also install confidence in local communities that reduce fear are of vital importance.
No one agency has a monopoly on this task or can do it alone. Co-operation at every level between statutory, voluntary and community partners is the key. The importance of co-operation and sharing information has been graphically seen in recent times. The recent experience in Soham bears tragic testimony to what can happen in the absence of sharing of vital information. Conversely, the successful conviction following the murder of Cornish schoolgirl Caroline Dickinson demonstrates the value of sharing information effectively across jurisdictions.
PROTECT N&S is an exciting joint initiative that will strengthen both of the partner organisations. There is much excellent practice currently in both organisations. The sharing of this can only be of mutual benefit to both PBNI and PWS. PROTECT N&S has real potential to learn from the experience of other international jurisdictions and in turn to be a catalyst and signpost for good practice for other jurisdictions.
In the busyness of organisational life, PROTECT N&S represents a commitment from both PBNI and PWS to set staff aside to learn, innovate, and develop best shared practice – in summary, to be the best and most effective that each can be in a spirit of partnership that will protect and benefit the people of both jurisdictions. It represents a considerable challenge and an enormous opportunity to have an impact on Probation work across Ireland and to make a significant contribution to the reduction of crime and the harm it does."