The Probation Service is the lead State agency for assessing and managing offenders (people convicted of an offence) in the community. It works with offenders and others to reduce offending and to make communities safer. It is an agency within the Department of Justice.
Assessments for the courts
The Probation Service assesses offenders for the criminal courts, when requested by the trial judge. Each assessment is presented to the court as a report. There are 2 types of offender assessment report:
Pre-sanction report (also known as a probation report): the offender is assessed to see if they are suitable for a non-custodial (non-prison) sentence. This report will describe the offender and their family circumstances and will say whether or not they are an alcoholic or drug addict. It will also consider the offender’s attitude, including whether they accept responsibility for their actions and if they are committed to improving their behaviour – for example, this could mean attending a drug treatment programme.
This probation report may also suggest conditions for a non-prison sentence – for example, that the offender should move away from a residential area where they were getting into trouble.
Community service report: the offender is assessed to see if it is suitable for them to do unpaid work in the community instead of going to prison. Probation Service staff can only consider recommending a community sanction where they believe that the offender can be supervised in a community setting without placing the community at risk by re-offending.
Supporting victims of crime
The Probation Service has a Victim Services Team, which provides information and support to victims of crime. It takes the feeling of victims into account when carrying out its work. Its restorative justice service allows victims to meet or communicate with offenders to describe how the crime has affected them.
The Probation Service also prepares victim impact reports for the courts when required. These reports assess the impact that offences have had on the victims of crime, usually violent crime.
You can read more about how the Probation Service works with victims of crime in Section 10 of the Victims Charter (pdf).
Supervision of offenders
Supervising offenders in the community is the main part of the Probation Service’s work. An offender who is placed on supervision must keep in regular contact with their supervising probation officer and obey all conditions of the order. The most commonly used orders for supervision are:
- Probation order - the offender gives an undertaking to the court that they will be of good behaviour, avoid further crime and obey the conditions of the order
- Post-release supervision order - a sex offender can be sentenced to a period of supervision following their release from prison
A judge may also suspend all or part of a prison sentence for a specified period of time, on condition that the offender stays under the supervision of a probation officer for that time.
The Probation Service also supervises prisoners who are on temporary release from custody with specific conditions of supervision by the Service. Life sentence prisoners on temporary release are obliged to co-operate and comply with supervision by the Probation Service. Such prisoners normally continue to be subject to supervision for the rest of their lives.
As an alternative to a prison sentence, a court may make a community service order, where the offender must do unpaid work (40 to 240 hours) in the community. The Probation Service assesses the suitability of the offender for community service, organises the work placement and manages the offender on behalf of the court.
Young Persons Probation, a specialised division of the Probation Service, works with children aged 12-18 years who come before the courts or who are in children detention schools. The Probation Service is involved in supervising several of the community sanctions available under the Children Act 2001.
Most of the work that the Probation Service does in prisons is with prisoners who will be under the Service’s supervision when they are released. The Probation Service works with a prison-based team, including the prison governor and other services, to help the prisoner manage their sentence and settle back into the community.
The Probation Service prepares assessment reports on prisoners for the Parole Board. It also produces assessment reports, requested by the courts, on people who are remanded in custody while awaiting trial.
Repatriation of prisoners
The Probation Service provides assessment reports on prisoners from abroad who are being considered for transfer to their country of origin, as required in applications under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995 and 1997.
Working in partnership
The Probation Service also works in partnership with a range of other bodies to reduce offending, develop local responses to crime and issues affecting it, and to improve public safety and social inclusion. This involves work in such areas as drugs, homelessness and domestic violence.
Probation Service staff in the community and in prisons refer offenders to community projects around the State, to help them to reintegrate and resettle.
Where to apply
You can find contact details for local Probation Services on probation.ie.