Long | Priority to end the harm inflicted on people & communities by paramilitaries & criminals
Individuals and communities vulnerable to paramilitary control and violence are set to receive continued support through new funding and support, as part of a package of initiatives announced today by Justice Minister, Naomi Long.
Announcing a mix of immediate and longer term funding to extend the cross-Executive Tackling Paramilitarism, Criminality and Organised Crime Programme, Justice Minister Naomi Long said paramilitaries hold communities back, exploit them, deny them opportunities they deserve and hurt them, in many cases maiming people and carrying out horrific human rights abuses with lasting impacts on individuals, their families and our society.
Minister Long said:
“This renewed funding will focus on helping those facing paramilitary harm in the here and now as well ensuring that young people are not drawn into a new generational cycle of paramilitarism, violence and crime.
“People have had to live with paramilitary control, violence, threats and exploitation for far too long. Life is hard enough without this. Families, communities and businesses are all desperate to return to normal after Covid-19 and the last thing they need is the negative influence of paramilitary gangs seeking to exert control, often for financial gain.
“Our focus, by extending and refocusing the Executive’s Programme to address paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime is to stop harm, both in the here and now and for the longer term. Through the Programme we will cut off paramilitary supply chains, whether that’s paramilitary drugs that ruin people’s lives, money-lending that leads to misery or the violence that leaves vulnerable kids shot and maimed in the street. There should never be any place for this and as a society, it’s so important we support the people who every day stop another generation being scarred in this way.
“This of course is a challenge that goes well beyond justice. It takes commitment from so many people but I am heartened by the incredible work that has already been done by so many people across the public, voluntary and community sector, often quietly and courageously, to end the harm caused by paramilitaries and those who try to cling on to their attempts to control people.
“The start and end point of all our work has to be the people affected by paramilitaries. They are the ones who deserve our support. We are already supporting projects that reduce violence and make sure a new generation of vulnerable young people are not exploited or recruited by paramilitaries. We also want to ensure that the role of women in communities is supported and that the justice system delivers justice more quickly. And we want to ensure that communities have faith in the law enforcement response all the way from neighbourhood policing right through to the dedicated focus and cross-agency work of the Paramilitary Crime Task Force.
“Finally, a central theme to the programme is that we’re out working in communities, listening to people’s concerns and developing solutions in conjunction with them. The Communities in Transition project has been working to build capacity in eight areas where there is a history of paramilitary activity, criminality and coercive control, providing people with the opportunity, skills and confidence to improve their local area, building on what is already working well locally, whilst narrowing the ground for paramilitary influences.
“We are operating currently in a less than ideal context, not least in light of the financial and social impacts of the ongoing global pandemic. This does not mean that we put our efforts on hold – quite the contrary – it puts an onus on us to be more creative, and to find innovative ways of delivering for those in need.”
The First Minister, Arlene Foster said:
“I am pleased that proposals have been approved to ensure the continued delivery of the Tackling Paramilitary Activity, Criminality and Organised Crime Programme.
“This is one of the Executive’s key strategies and it recognises that there is no single answer to dealing with issues that lead to coercive control and instead a number of approaches need to be taken together.
“I look forward to continuing our collaborative work across the Executive to support people and communities, building on the progress that has already been made.”
The deputy First Minister, Michelle O’Neill, added:
“This Programme recognises that tackling criminality and organised crime within our communities requires cross-Executive agreement and a joined up approach.
Those who live and work within our communities will continue to be a key partner in the Executive’s approach to moving society forward. We recognise the important role which a strong, resilient voluntary and community sector has in supporting those who are most vulnerable to coercive control within our communities and we reaffirm our commitment to supporting communities with this work.”
£13million will be provided in the coming financial year to support:
• Wrap project.
This is a Wrap-around, flexible education service to children and young people facing significant challenges in four existing geographical areas, known as the ‘Wrap project’. This project focusses on educational under attainment, which is key to tackling paramilitarism, criminality and organised crime and, in particular, the impact which socio-economic deprivation has on children and young people’s outcomes.
Influencing community attitudes to education and raising aspirations is key to both reducing educational underachievement and therefore tackling paramilitary activity and organised crime.
• Specialist youth services.
The initiatives undertaken cover a wide range of activity working directly with young people within communities who have been harmed by paramilitary groups and/or those who are most at risk of becoming involved in paramilitary activity. This work delivers a particularly important service in a COVID-19 context when other protective factors ordinarily targeted at young people are not as readily available.
• Mid & East Antrim Support Hub
This project involves the creation of a multi-agency youth stream of the Mid and East Antrim Support Hub to support young people who are at risk of being involved with, influenced by, or exploited by paramilitary groups.
• Belfast City support project for people under threatThis project aims to develop, support and implement multiagency arrangements in West and North Belfast to address issues relating to victims of paramilitary groups and those under threat. This work will aim to align the work of various agencies, including community partners, to help those under threat.
Aspire is an important project targeting marginalised men who are most susceptible to paramilitary / criminal influence and, therefore, most at risk of becoming involved in paramilitary or criminal activity, to help them develop alternate coping mechanisms and increase their resilience.
It will provide a dedicated Probation Team for men under PBNI supervision who meet agreed criteria; a mentoring programme for men leaving prison and for those in the first 16 weeks of community sentence; and, for men who are not in the criminal justice system, a range of community based interventions, including restorative justice approaches.
Engage is the provision of a dedicated resource to support women who have offended and support them to make the transition back into local communities.
Working with women both in custody and in the community, Engage builds resilience and equips women with the skills and learning to withstand paramilitary influence when they exit the criminal justice system.
• Fresh Start Through Community projects
These projects will promote lawfulness and active citizenship to individuals, and build capacity and relations within communities.
The Conflict Resolution projects work with hard to reach/at risk young people, their parents/carers and those in the community to address issues like anti-social behaviour to develop community ownership and capacity building.
Fresh Start Through Sport uses engagement through sport for those on the edges of the youth justice system who are vulnerable to paramilitary harm and influence. The Conflict Resolution projects work with young people and those in the community to address issues like anti-social behaviour.
• Enhancing the learning and well-being outcomes of people in separation
This project will progress the development and implementation of specific interventions to prepare prisoners with links to paramilitary groups for return to society and to assist with their reintegration. It will be informed by local, regional and international practice relating to supporting the reintegration of prisoners associated with paramilitarism, political violence and terrorism.
• Developing interventions to support community reintegration among paramilitary related offenders
This project will develop and implement specific interventions to prepare prisoners with links to paramilitary groups for return to society and to assist with their reintegration. It will be informed by local, regional and international practice.
• Committal Reform
Committal Reform is designed to enable a transformational change to the criminal justice system by removing cross examination of injured parties from the process in the Magistrates Court and speed up the justice system by directly transferring specified cases to the Crown Court at an early stage. This project supports the delivery of those changes.
• Developing women in the community
The programme will target women of all ages in communities where paramilitary influence is prevalent. The focus will be on empowering women with the confidence to become involved in transformational community development, helping to support communities to move away from paramilitary activities.
Skills to be developed and shared may include: Confidence & Self Esteem, Personal Development, Self-Awareness, Leadership, Communication Skills, Teamwork & Collaboration, Problem Solving, Role of Women within families/communities, and Women and peace-building. The programme will also include an element of family support and the opportunity to volunteer.
• Paramilitary Crime Task Force (PCTF)
The PCTF is a Law Enforcement Task Force consisting of the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI), The National Crime Agency (NCA) and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC). This partnership allows each Agency to share resources, capacity and capability with the singular aim of frustrating, disrupting and dismantling paramilitary organised crime groups through a robust law enforcement response; thereby contributing to making people and communities safer from the harm caused by Paramilitarism.
• PSNI – Community safety and engagement
This initiative will look to support local interventions that enhance problem solving around issues impacting on the community, and that promote engagement with, and visibility of, policing.
This initiative is designed to complement the activities of the PCTF, as the PSNI recognises that in order to deliver safer communities a security and criminal justice approach alone will not suffice.
• Monitoring of offenders
This project will provide support for the development and mobilisation of a new delivery model to assess and manage the risks posed by terrorist-related offenders in Northern Ireland. The proposed changes would allow discretion for the Department of Justice to assign supervisory responsibility to a relevant designated organisation to manage the multi-faceted risks posed by terrorist related offenders.
• Support for victims
This initiative will aim to address an identified gap in current provision. The intention is to commission/pilot dedicated support for victims of paramilitary violence, control, and coercion.
Longer term ring-fenced funding, of £10m for three years, will be provided to community-based activity supported by the Communities in Transition project. This is to sustain the efforts to build capacity and support in communities which are most impacted by paramilitary activity and coercive control. The project is led by TEO and is currently delivered in 8 areas: Derry/Londonderry; Carrickfergus/Larne; North Down, Lurgan/Craigavon; North Belfast; East Belfast; Shankill; and West Belfast. Work to date has focused on seven key emerging themes: Community Safety & Policing; Addressing the needs of young people; Health & Wellbeing; Environment & Culture; Community Development Issues; Restorative Justice & Restorative Practice; and Personal Transition. A Participatory Design Phase (PDP) involved further direct engagement with communities and key statutory stakeholders, providing the opportunity to help shape project activity and inform more tailored interventions in response to the issues previously identified.