New measures to help protect the public from serious violent offenders

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Justice Minister Claire Sugden has announced a new court-based order aimed at helping to protect the public from risk of harm caused by serious violent offenders.

The Violent Offences Prevention Order (VOPO) which was announced today (Thursday December 1) will allow the courts to place tailored conditions on the behaviour of an offender.

Those subject to the order will also be required to provide personal information to police as part of their notification requirements, a key feature of the order.

It can be used to prohibit a person’s access to certain places, premises or events and from contact with those people to whom they pose the highest risk.

It can also include positive requirements, such as attending a rehabilitative programme to help with offending behaviour.

Those who breach the Order’s conditions, or who fail to notify their details, are liable to up to five years imprisonment.

Paul Frew DUP MLA and Chairman of the Justice Committee has been pushing for the introduction of VOPOs for some time.

He said: “I work a lot with the PSNI and PPANI partners who manage and monitor people who may pose certain risks in the community.

“We have been crying out for this tool for many years and this will help keep people safer.

“This will assist law enforcement agencies and health and social workers not only in our own town of Ballymena but throughout Northern Ireland. The risk of violence is very high. Higher than you would imagine if you are not a victim yourself.”

Justice Minister Claire Sugden added: “I believe the new order will have a positive impact on the effectiveness of the current risk management arrangements.

“It has been specifically tailored for this jurisdiction, and shaped through consultation with the public and the criminal justice agencies. Its comprehensive framework is designed to tackle areas considered a priority by those agencies, such as domestic violence.”

In addition to the new order, Mr Frew continues to campaign for further change.

He explained: “Domestic violence is a massive issue in our country. Ballymena is no exception so the fight goes on.

“I have applied enormous pressure on the Justice Minister to bring forward specific legislation on domestic violence and coercive control and she has promised to have a framework of legislation before the Justice Committee before Christmas and to have it in law within 12 months.

“This is very ambitious but I will be supporting her 100 per cent to ensure we have the best law possible to help tackle this scourge and to keep victims safe.”