The History of Probation

Making the Difference

Making a Difference - an oral history of PBNI feature graphic

Making The Difference is a book that recounts the story of one hundred years of the Probation Service in Northern Ireland. First established in 1908 by the Act of the previous year, it has developed into a widely-recognised professional service under, since its foundation in 1982, the Probation Board of Northern Ireland. Most striking of all are the recollections of former Probation Officers whose collective memory reflects much of the soul of this service. 

"Effective partnership: a History of North South cooperation in Probation work" is an article by Paul Doran, when he was Probation's Head of Rehabilitation, and was published in the Journal of Cross Border Studies In Ireland Vol 10 2015. This article sets out the challenges and achievements of effective North-South cross-border partnership, especially since the Good Friday Agreement in 1998.

"The Public Protection Advisory Group: A Model for Structured Co-operation" is an article in 2010 by Michael Donnellan and Brian McCaughey, Directors of the Irish Probation Service and the Probation Board for Northern Ireland respectively. The article was published in the Irish Probation Journal Volume 7 2010. This paper sets the context, traces the history of formalised co-operation between the PS and the PBNI from 1998, and describes the structure, scope and activities of the PPAG as a model for bilateral co-ordination and co-operation.

"Making the Difference That Makes a Difference: Leading Probation on the Island of Ireland" is an article by Cheryl Lamont CBE, Chief Executive of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, and Vivian Geiran, Director of the Irish Probation Service. The article reviews the wider functions of leadership, providing an overview of the two Probation organisations and explores some of the challenges and opportunities for the current leadership of probation, North and South. The article was was published in the Irish Probation Journal Volume 14 2017.

"Probation, the state and community – delivering probation services in Northern Ireland(external link opens in a new window / tab)" is an article by David O’Mahony and Tim Chapman in The Handbook of Probation (edited by Loraine Gelsthorpe and Rod Morgan: ISBN:9781134014910, 1134014910) which was originally published in 2007 and republished 2013. The article looks at how probation services have evolved and developed in Northern Ireland up to that point. It is a history of a service structurally independent from, yet influenced by, policy and practice developments in probation services in England and Wales. It is also about probation officers and managers struggling to perform a professional role in a society in which criminal justice has provoked highly contentious political issues often resulting in violence.

Creating Practice Standards

We have a short article about how Probation approached creating its own standards for Probation practice written by former Probation Board for northern Ireland senior management member, Peter Denley OBE.

Reflections at 40

Graphic of part of the Reflections at 40 booklet front cover

Probation has also produced for its 40th Anniversary in 2022 a small magazine called "Reflections at 40" which contains a collection of first-hand accounts depicting working life within Probation over the last number of decades.

These contributions from former and current staff members are fascinating. Some personal reflections provide the political and societal context to the establishment of the organisation in 1982. The introduction of an evidence-based approach to practice and the innovation that took place during the 1980’s and 1990’s to contribute to building safer communities is also well documented. 

Read "Reflections at 40"

Forty Years of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland

An article written by Pat Best, Nicola Carr, Gail McGreevy and Val Owens was published in the Irish Probation Journal volume 19 examining the history, development and transformation of probation services in Northern Ireland from the perspective of staff who worked in probation in 1982.

Through a structured group interview with six staff and written contributions from other staff who worked in probation from the 1960s through to the 2000s, the article considers the change brought about by the Probation Board Order (NI) 1982 and the establishment of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland. It considers a number of key themes, including the development of professional social work training, the introduction of strategic priorities and management by objectives; the move from an organisation that dealt mainly with young people to an organisation working with adults; the impact of the Troubles on the organisation; the development of group work programmes, risk assessment, risk management and the public protection arrangements; and the role of the Board in working alongside local communities. 

This article also considers what might be learned from staff experiences during this time as probation services develop over the next four decades in Northern Ireland.

Read the "Forty Years of the Probation Board for Northern Ireland" Article