Probation Service – Adults (2020 data)

A. Service overview and contact details

Focus of restorative justice activities

The Probation Service is the lead State agency in the assessment and management of adult and young offenders in the community. Rehabilitating people who offend in order to achieve and maintain positive change is at the core of Probation work. In working to promote and support that change, staff draw from a range of evidence-informed frameworks including restorative justice paradigms and, over recent decades, the Service has developed its capacity to engage with restorative justice practice. Since the late 1990s, the Service has provided funding to Restorative Justice Services and Restorative Justice in the Community and, following the commencement of the Children Act 2001, restorative justice practice was further developed through the work of Young Persons Probation.

Restorative Justice and Victim Services Unit (RJVSU)

The wider and deeper integration of restorative justice models with clients of all ages continued to be part of the Service’s strategic intent and, in 2018, the Restorative Justice and Victim Services Unit (RJVSU) was established. With a national remit, the aim of the RJSVU is to provide leadership and support for the effective and timely delivery of a range of restorative justice models in response to court referrals and requests that come directly from victims. For ease of access, the information provided is divided between two profiles: this profile focuses on adult clients, while the other focuses on Young Persons Probation.

Year of commencement

The RJVSU was established in November 2018.

Service details

Restorative Justice and Victims Services Unit

Probation Service

Haymarket, Smithfield

D07 WT27



Tel: (+353) (0)1 8173600

Head of unit

Ursula Fernée

Assistant Principal Probation Officer


Tel: (+353) (0)1 8173684

Staffing Structure (RJSVU)

  • Assistant Principal Probation Officer
  • 1 Senior Probation Office
  • 1 Probation Officer

Staff training in restorative justice

Probation Officers are qualified Social Workers whose interventions also draw from the fields of psychology and criminology. Training in restorative conferencing, accredited by the International Institute for Restorative Practices, is part of the annual schedule of in-service training for Probation Service staff. The training events are facilitated in partnership with community-based organisations. More targeted training across regions has been delivered on victim-offender mediation. This has included training on engaging with survivors of sexual violence in order to respond effectively to victim-initiated requests in this context.

The RJVSU provides guidance and resource material and, in some circumstances, more direct engagement in cases. The Unit also delivers training in partnership with the Probation Service’s Research, Learning and Development Unit on “Working with the Victim Perspective in Probation Practice”.

Use of volunteers

Not applicable in Probation context.

Volunteer training in restorative justice

Not applicable.

Main source(s) of funding

Funding for restorative justice in Probation practice and to support partner community-based organisations is included in the annual Probation Service budget, provided by the Department of Justice.

Annual budget

Budget for 2020: €48.936m (overall Probation Service).

Nature of funding

The Probation Service is allocated an annual budget from the Department of Justice.

Organisational status

The Probation Service is a state agency located in the Department of Justice. The RJSVU is part of the Operations Directorate in the Probation Service.

Target client group

Adults, as defined in legislation. The Probation Service works in both the community and custodial setting with all cases that have been referred by the Courts for assessment and supervision. The RJVSU works with victims of offenders who are under supervision, as well as providing leadership and support for restorative interventions by Probation Service staff more generally. The RJVSU also works closely with Young Persons Probation.

Nature of offences

All offences can be considered for a restorative justice intervention, including offences against property and people. The number of cases relating to offences of sexual violence is very low and, in these cases, mediation has been facilitated in response to victim requests.

Source of cases

Probation Service cases involving restorative justice with adult offenders arise in three contexts

  • Request from a Judge as part of a Pre-Sentence Report assessment
  • Request by a victim to engage in mediated process where the offender is currently known to the Probation Service
  • Initiation by Probation Officers as part of supervision.

Geographic area of activity

Provision is on a national basis.


B. Nature of RJ service

Model(s) of RJ services provided

  1. Victim-offender mediation
  2. Restorative conference
  3. Reparation programme (through community-based projects)
  4. Bespoke restorative justice

Main process elements and short description of each model that the service provides

Victim-offender mediation (VOM): VOM is a process that provides victims with the opportunity to meet the offender in a safe, controlled setting with a mediator who facilitates a discussion between the parties to addrss and repair the harm caused.

Restorative conference: A conference is a structured and facilitated meeting of the offender, the victim, their family members and community and statutory representatives. Through discussion and collaboration, the conference aims to agree a plan to enable the offender to make amends for the harm caused.

Reparation programmes: See service profiles for Restorative Justice Services and Restorative Justice in the Community.

Bespoke restorative justice: Bespoke restorative justice is a tailored approach that recognises the harm caused and the wider social context of offending. The interventions draw from resources available within the relevant community. The offender is supported to participate in activities that highlight the impact of the harm caused and allow for either direct or indirect reparation for the victim and/or community.

Each of these models makes provision for direct or indirect dialogue between the offender and the victim. The preparation for and delivery of these models is facilitated by trained staff who ensure that the process is fully compliant with the principles of neutrality, confidentiality, problem solving, voluntariness and self-determination.

Number and nature of cases

Details of restorative justice cases managed by the RJVSU in the two-year periods 2019/20 and 2020/21 are set out in the following tables. It is estimated that in those periods Probation Officers managed another 20 and 12 cases, respectively, without RJVSU involvement. During the period, 2020/21 the Unit engaged with 26 victims in response to a range of queries, approximately 20% of which related to RJ queries.

Case classification 2019/20 2020/21
Total cases 37 24
Cases completed 34 20
Cases incomplete 3 4
Cases with victim participation
Direct 7 8
Indirect 11 12
Cases without victim participation 16 4
Bespoke 22 14
Conference 7 2
Victim-offender mediation 0 6
Victim-offender mediation (shuttle) 5 2
Cases with community participation* n.a. n.a.
Cases without community participation n.a. n.a.

*Community representatives other than victims, offenders and these participants’ families may be involved under the bespoke model, but are not involved in other models.

Offence type

Offence type 2019/20 2020/21
   – assault 20 13
   – property 13 5
   – public order 10 2
   – road traffic 9 1
   – drug-related 6 2
   – animal cruelty 1 0
   – menacing phone messages 0 1

Note – some cases involved more than one offence; for 2020/2021 cases, the principal offence is shown in the table while for 2019/2020 all offences are listed.

Age and gender of offender

Age 2019/20 2020/21
   – 18-24 17 11
   – 25-34 10 7
   – 35-44 7 4
   – 45-54 1 0
   – >54 2 2
   – male 27 22
   – female 10 2

Case outcomes

2019/20 2020/21
Adjourned 14 2
Probation Bond 8 3
Part-Suspended Sentence Supervision Order 3 0
Strike out 3 2
Suspended Sentence 2 4
Community Service Order 2 1
Peace Bond 1 2
Disposal under Probation of Offenders Act (DPOA) 1 2
Fine 0 2
Custody 0 1
No Outcome Recorded 0 1
Ongoing 2
Total 34 24


C. Sources of further information

Information Leaflets

Annual Reports



Restorative justice as the new default in Irish criminal justice, Irish Probation Journal (2019), Ian D. Marder