Evaluation shows reduction in reoffending and decrease in prison numbers

Pictured: Cheryl Lamont, Chief Executive, PBNI and Sir Declan Morgan, Lord Chief Justice for Northern Ireland at the launch of the ECO Evaluation report.

In October 2015 the Probation Board for Northern Ireland piloted an intensive community sentence called ‘The Enhanced Combination Order’ (ECO) as an alternative to short prison sentences of 12 months or less. That community sentence has now been evaluated and it has been found that there was a 40% reduction in the reoffending rate for those who completed the order. The evaluation also found that the number of prison sentences of 12 months or less awarded by courts involved in the ECO pilot decreased by 10.5% suggesting that ECO was impacting on prison numbers.

Speaking at an event to launch the evaluation, Chief Executive of the Probation Board Cheryl Lamont stated: “The Enhanced Combination Order is a demanding community sentence which requires offenders to complete unpaid work, participate in victim focused work, undergo assessment and participate in programmes. An important element of this Order is the fact that every person is offered a psychological assessment. Given the high numbers of offenders presenting with mental health and addictions this is key part of the sentence.

“The evaluation conducted by NISRA demonstrates the effectiveness of the Order. It shows a reduction in reoffending rates, a decrease in likelihood of reoffending, and important outcomes for those who participate in programmes. We now know that this Order is making a difference in building safer communities.

The Lord Chief Justice Sir Declan Morgan added: “I am also very pleased that my judicial colleagues in the pilot areas have been quick to embrace ECOs as a disposal and to appreciate the benefits they can bring, not just to the offender but potentially also to those who were the victims in these cases.  The judges who have been directly involved now see ECOs as providing a constructive alternative to short spells of imprisonment. I am confident that judges sitting in other parts of this jurisdiction would take a similar view if ECOs were available to them as a disposal.

“A total of 202 ECOs have been made to date.  55% of these orders have been made in the magistrates’ court and 45% in the Crown Court.  This breakdown suggests to me that ECOs are seen as a very credible alternative to prison, rather than as a substitute for a less onerous community disposal. I fully support the continuation of the pilot and I would very much like to see it rolled out further to other areas.”

Chairman of the Probation Board Vilma Patterson concluded: “The indicative costs of ECO’s has been estimated at £9k per annum which on top of the reduced reoffending rate and focus on victim issues indicates this sentence if providing value for money and better outcomes in comparison to short prison sentences. The Enhanced Combination Order has the potential to make a real difference to communities throughout Northern Ireland and assist us to change lives and reduce the number of victims of crime”.

The full evaluation can be found at https://www.pbni.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/ECO-Evaluation_Final-Report-04.12.17.pdf

ENDS

Further Information contact:

Gail McGreevy 028 90262461 / 07825897955 / Gail.McGreevy@pbni.gsi.gov.uk or Communications office 028 9026 2400