The disruption to the courts caused by COVID-19 restrictions last year led to a significant fall in the number of referrals to the Probation Service, according to its annual report.
The courts referred just over 6,000 people to the service last year, compared with more than 9,000 in 2019.
During the pandemic, the service prioritised more than 1,000 high-risk cases for additional attention. These included cases involving sex offenders and perpetrators of domestic violence.
The report shows that the service dealt with 15,537 offenders in the community last year – down from 16,607 in 2019 – and 2,730 prison offenders.
Drugs and theft main causes of referral
Its figures again show that almost 84% of new court referrals to the service were male.
Drugs offences overtook theft as the main reason that offenders were referred to the service last year. Almost 20% of referrals were linked to drugs, with almost 17% due to theft, and almost 16% related to assault.
The service also completed 9,366 probation reports and 2,164 community service assessments – both figures showing a substantial drop compared with 2019.
The Probation Service managed almost 1,161 community service orders last year, which it said resulted in almost €1.6 million-worth of unpaid work done for the benefit of communities across the country.
Mark Wilson (Director of the Probation Service, small picture) described 2020 as a “testing year”, but said the organisation had found solutions and employed creativity to overcome the obstacles caused by the pandemic.
The service has also launched a new strategy statement outlining its strategic direction over the next three years.