One of the statutory objectives of the Justice System is to rehabilitate offenders so that they do not reoffend once they have completed their sentence. Difficulties at home, financial issues and deprivation or problems with alcohol, drugs or mental health can result in a continuous negative pattern of behaviour which repeatedly brings people back into the system. This has a negative impact on families and communities and is costly to the taxpayer.
Repeat offending is an issue in Northern Ireland. Statistics published by the Department of Justice show that repeat offenders account for almost three quarters of all proven offences per annum. In line with the Northern Ireland Executive’s (draft) Programme for Government (PfG) 2016-21, Criminal Justice Organisations in Northern Ireland have been working to introduce reforms and initiatives to reduce offending and reoffending. Despite this however, the official reoffending rate has remained relatively stable in recent years with around 17-18 per cent of adults reoffending within one year following release from custody, or from either receiving non-custodial court or diversionary disposals.
The overall aim of this study is to provide an overview of how effectively the key Justice Organisations have been collaborating to deliver the strategic objective of reducing reoffending in line with commitments under the PfG. In doing so, we will consider:
- the key strategies and initiatives, across both custodial and community settings, for reducing reoffending and how the outcomes of these have been assessed;
- if possible, the level of spend on reducing reoffending activities and the cost-effectiveness of this;
- the main trends and demographics for repeat offenders and whether interventions have been targeted appropriately;
- the key challenges to reducing reoffending and how successful the Criminal Justice System (CJS) has been in addressing them; and
- the opportunities that exist to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the CJS in driving a reduction in repeat offending.
The review will focus solely on the CJS and will not consider the wider societal factors such as health, housing, education and employment that impact on an individual’s life leading them into offending behaviour, except to the extent that the CJS seeks to address such issues in dealing with those who have offended.
We are aiming to publish this report in Autumn 2022.