History of Probation
In England and Wales the Probation of Offenders Act 1907 saw the formalisation of the Probation Service and the Isle of Man saw the informal development of the Island’s Probation Service. Commencing life as a volunteer Missionary Service in the courts, the service espoused rehabilitation and offered those who had fallen foul of the law to make amends and turn away from crime. In the UK in 1948, a further Criminal Justice Act established the role of the service to supervise offenders not only subject to probation orders but also on release from custody. This was the birth of the Probation and After Care Service.
When the Isle of Man introduced its own legislation, the Island broadly followed the UK lead. On 10 April 1913, the Probation of Offenders Act was passed by Tynwald, which allowed for offenders in some cases to be released under the supervision of the Isle of Man Probation Service. The Bill received Royal Assent on 13 June 1913. This formalised the situation which pertained at that time where a Manxman called Mr Kenyon oversaw young offenders to prevent them being mixed with what were perceived at the time as more hardened criminals in the Island’s gaol. A further Criminal Justice Act in 1963 established many of the functions undertaken by today’s Probation Service. In 1963, and updated in 1988, probation rules for the Island were established outlining the functions of the Probation Liaison Committee to oversee the Probation Service and the roles of appointed probation officers.
Throughout the Probation Service’s lifetime, both on the Island and in England and Wales, until the Criminal Justice Act 1991, its role was to assist, advise and befriend offenders in order that they could turn away from crime. The 1991 UK Act, which was never adopted by the Isle of Man, changed the status of probation orders to sentences and as such, were designed to pose a greater restriction on liberty and act as a punishment. The Isle of Man retains the advise, assist and befriend role as stated in the Probation Rules 1988. However, the Island’s service adopted the new focus of the England and Wales Service and since 2001 concentrated on assessing and managing the risks posed by offenders and protecting the public. It was this UK legislation that resulted in the civil law function of the Family Court Welfare to be separated from the Probation Service and was placed with the newly created Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS). On the Island the links have remained and the newly formed Prison and Probation Service continues to provide the Family Court Welfare function.
The National Offender Management Service (NOMS) was established by combining the Prison and Probation Services in the UK in 2004 and the Island’s Prison and Probation Service were similarly merged in 2011.
The Isle of Man Probation Service provides reports to assist sentencers to impose the most appropriate sentence on offenders and these reports include an assessment both of the likelihood of re-offending and the potential to inflict harm. In addition they supervise offenders in the community on probation orders, prison licences and community service. They have 2 officers situated within the prison to assist the rehabilitation of the offenders serving sentences there, and it provides individual and group work interventions designed to reduce further offending. It also has a pivotal role in the Island Multi Agency Public Protection Arrangements.