Problem Solving Justice

Problem Solving Justice comes under Strategic Priority 3 of PBNI’s Corporate Plan 2017-20: ‘Promoting an innovative and problem solving approach to reducing re-offending’

Probation is committed to developing and delivering innovative work. This includes playing a key role in the development and delivery of problem solving courts as a means of dealing more effectively with the root causes of offending behaviour, in a range of areas including mental health, domestic abuse and substance misuse.


Substance Misuse Court

The new pilot programme – a ‘Substance Misuse Court’ – which challenges offenders to tackle their drug and alcohol misuse was launched at Belfast Magistrates’ Court in April 2018.

The Substance Misuse Court (SMC) pilot will adopt an alternative approach to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour and is based on the positive experiences of Drugs Courts in other countries. The primary aims of the SMC are to reduce reoffending and substance misuse among participants and to facilitate their rehabilitation.  A multi-agency Supervision and Assessment Team (SAT) will deliver medical and other services as part of an individually tailored intervention package. The SAT comprise of Probation and Addiction NI staff. Work carried out will include detailed assessment, motivational work and Assessment Report preparation. There will be up to 18 weeks for integrated case management, therapeutic intervention and social supports, with 12 weeks in the social support transition phase.  The participant’s progress and any risks they pose to the public will be monitored and reported back to the court. Up to 50 participants will undertake in the pilot which is expected to run for approximately nine months. Participants will remain under the supervision of a judge throughout the entire process.

More information and guidance on the Substance Misuse Court process can be found via the following leaflet: Problem Solving Justice – Substance Misuse Court leaflet (PDF)


Domestic Abuse

Probation is centrally involved with two multi agency Domestic Violence and Abuse projects to deliver Problem Solving Justice and provide early intervention in tackling the underlying causes of offending behaviour. Both projects are funded by the Department of Justice and link to Indicator 1 (reduce crime) under the Programme for Government, which recognises the need to reduce crime by addressing its causative factors through prevention and detection.

The projects are the pilot of the Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (DVVP) and the Unadjudicated Domestic Abuse Programme, for more information on these projects please visit the Programmes section.


Enhanced Combination Orders

In October 2015 Probation piloted an intensive community sentence in the Ards and Armagh & South Down Court areas called the ‘Enhanced Combination Order’ (ECO) as an alternative to short prison sentences of 12 months or less.  These Orders are enhanced with a greater focus on rehabilitation, reparation, restorative practice and desistance. An evaluation report of the Enhanced Combination Order pilot was published on 4 December 2017. The full Evaluation report can be viewed via the following link: Enhanced Combination Order Pilot Evaluation Report (PDF)

Useful links:
Problem Solving Justice – NI Direct website