The Department of Probation and Parole aims at enhancing community safety by reducing recidivism utilising restorative justice measures.
‘To help ensure social stability by contributing to minimise the frequency of crime and by ensuring the re-integration of offenders to functional societal frameworks. To ensure that the myriad of services offered will address the needs of the Criminal Justice System.
Until the early nineteenth century, the criminal justice system in Malta was primitive. It was Professor Nicola Zammit who first maintained that the whole system of punishment should be reviewed and that punishment should be tailored to fit the offender and not the crime. In fact, in 1854, the first Criminal Code was promulgated and a system of punishment was established, consisting of the death sentence, life imprisonment, imprisonment with hard labour, imprisonment, solitary confinement, interdiction, fine, and reprimand and admonition.
Over the years, the system of punishment continued to be refined. In fact, in 1900 'Articolo Venti Tre' was introduced. This could be considered to be the precursor of the Conditional Discharge. In 1944, H.M. Commissioner of Prisons for England and Malta, Alexander Paterson, delivered a report to the Governor of Malta in which he proposed two major innovations: the release of offenders on licence (parole system) and the introduction of the Probation Services. His proposals were not heeded to immediately. In fact it was only in 1955 that the latter part of his proposal was partially integrated. Judge Guze Flores mobilised the existent resources to follow up this proposal. He summoned parish priests to collaborate with the prosecuting officer and gather information about the offender to help the judge reach a fair judgement. This eventually led to the enactment of the Probation of Offenders Act in 1957. Due to the lack of qualified probation officers, two persons were sent on a training course in England. The first Probation Order was issued in August 1961.
Since then, the 'Centru Hidma Socjali' was established and its director was appointed Principal Probation Officer. Moreover, certain family welfare officers were selected to carry out the duties of probation officers. The need for re-structuring Probation Services in Malta had been felt for decades, however few concrete steps have been taken to overcome the problem. In 1993 the University of Malta, after receiving proposals from the judiciary and the Government of Malta, organised a post-qualification diploma to train individuals as probation officers. The first course yielded four qualified probation officers. In 1994 the Probation Services Action Team (PSAT), a non-governmental organisation, was set up. This was perhaps the first in a series of measures intended to address the lack of trained specialised resources in the field of probation. PSAT aimed at serving as the cornerstone of the future Probation Services, which was set up within the Department of Correctional Services. In fact it was in 1996 that a group of qualified probation officers were engaged as social workers within this Department. In 1998, another major step was taken with the insertion of a new structure for the Probation Services, within the government structure and once again was incorporated within the Department of Correctional Services. The structure includes the grades of a Principal Probation Officer, senior probation officers, probation officers and trainee probation officers. In 2002, the Probation of Offenders was revised and renamed Probation Act. This newly enacted Act marked the introduction of sanctions such as the Community Service Order and the Combination Order, while at the pre-sentencing stage the Provisional Order of Supervision was included for the first time. The renewed aim of the Probation Services is the strengthening of probation services in our country while expanding the services offered.
Beneficiaries and Impact
The Probation Services is a key component of the criminal justice system and works in collaboration with the judiciary, police and various agencies and government departments, among others.
Selection of beneficiaries for the service is not dependent on the agency. It is the court which has the discretion to decide who benefits from the services offered by Probation Services. The Probation Services addresses the needs of adult and juvenile offenders when demanded by the court at the pre-sentencing stage through through the Pre-Sentence Report, the Social Inquiry Report and the Provisional Order of Supervision. At the post-sentencing stage the services offered include the Community Service Order, Combination Order, Probation Order, and the Suspended Sentence Supervision Order.
The Probation Services database reveals that offenders come in contact with the Probation Services for various offences. These offences include drug possession; person offences, such as physical assault and domestic violence; sexual offences, such as prostitution and corruption of minors; property offences, including illegal entry, auto theft and the defilement of public and private property; falsification of documents, money laundering and forgery; and internet crime. The Probation Services caters for both male and females, but to date the highest proportion of offenders receiving our services have been male. Through the course of interaction with the offender, the probation officer may also come into contact with the families, employers and immediate peer-groups of the offenders.
During 2008, the Probation Services received a total of 351 new cases from the Courts of Malta and Gozo, a figure which remains stable when compared to 2007.
The cases issued mark a shift towards the utilisation of the Probation Services at the pre-sentencing stage. One can also note an increase of 166 per cent over the year 2007, in the issuing of combination orders and community service orders. In December 2008, the Unit was handling a total of 585 active cases distributed among two senior probation officers, carrying a reduced case-load due to other duties, and 11 probation officers. One can note that although the number of community service orders and combination orders issued increased during 2008, these services are still under-utilised.
The services offered by the Probation Services include:
Pre-Sentence Report (PSR)
The Probation Officer prepares this report which is required by the Court after guilt is established and before the Court makes its decision. This report contains extensive information about the offender's background and present situation, as well as recommendations to the Court with regard to sentencing.
Social Inquiry Reports (SIR)
The Probation Officer compiles this report as requested by the Court at any phase during the criminal proceedings before guilt is established. This report is similar in content to the PSR but does not include any recommendations to the court with regard to sentencing.
Provisional Supervision Order
According to the new Probation Act, the Court may deem it necessary to issue a provisional order of supervision of the accused by a Probation Officer at any point during the criminal proceedings.
A Probation Order is issued by the Court and can be issued for a minimum period of one year and a maximum of three years. It is a community-based alternative aiming at serving the offender's rehabilitation, protecting society from harm, and preventing further recidivism.
Community Service Order (CSO)
Through this newly introduced sanction the offender is required to perform between 40 and 240 hours of work without pay. Compensation to the community is regarded as a priority when issuing a CSO as the offender tries to make up for the harm he has inflicted upon society in general. The offender is expected to carry out the number of hours as stipulated by the Court in his free time and care is taken in order that such work does not replace paid work.
This is an amalgam of the Probation Order and the Community Service Order. The Probation element may be of one to three years duration while the Community Service element of 40 to 100 hours.
Suspended Sentence Supervision Order
This is a prison sentence which is suspended for a minimum of two and a maximum of four years. The Court may issue a Supervision Order applicable to this period. The Probation Officer supervising a Suspended Sentence puts more emphasis on the aspect of control.
Reports by the Parole Unit to the Parole Board in terms of the Restorative Justice Act, indicating the offender's level of risk of harm to others and to himself and whether the inmate is prepared to re-enter society on Parole and serve the remaining prison sentence in the community.
Reports by the Victim Support Unit to the Parole Board on the victim's perspective with respect to the application done by a prison inmate for Parole
Parole Supervision by Parole Officers of Parolees
26 January - World Probation Day
On this specific day, the Probation Services in Malta joins various countries in the celebration of World Probation Day. This occasion serves to create awareness of the valuable work done by the Probation Officers worldwide. Probation work requires dedication and commitment from the Probation Officers for the benefit of the community. Through such a community sanction, the Court gives an opportunity to the offender to be rehabilitated within the community while at the same time become a law-abiding citizen.
10 March/ 1 June 2003 - Introduction of the new Probation Act 2002
The Probation Act 2002 replaces the Probation of Offenders Act 1957. This 2002 Act caters for the new services offered by the Probation Services, namely the Community Service Order, the Combination Order and the Provisional Supervision Order while defining better the services included in the 1957 Act.