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Probation Re-offending Statistics Frequently Asked Questions

    These statistics are categorised as Under Reservation. This categorisation indicates that the quality of these statistics do not meet the standards required of official statistics published by the CSO.

    For further information please refer to the Under Reservation FAQ page.

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1. What do Probation Re-offending Statistics measure?

Re-offending statistics measure the level of recorded re-offending by offenders that were placed under the management of the Probation Service. The re-offending rate indicates the percentage of people who were reconvicted for a crime incident that was recorded within a defined period (re-offence window) following the commencement of their Probation, Community Service or Post Release Supervision Order. The conviction must be within two years of the date that incident was recorded.

2. What duration is the re-offence window?

The period under consideration differs for each cohort of probationer.

A three-year period is considered for the 2014 cohort, a two-year period for the 2015 cohort and a one-year period for the 2016 cohort. For example, if an offender was sentenced to Probation on December 31st, 2015 and they committed an offence on December 31st, 2016 for which a conviction was obtained on or before December 31st, 2018 they would be included as a re-offender.

It is necessary to strike a balance between allowing sufficient time for the crime incident to progress through the criminal justice system and providing timely data for users. Future publications will extend the re-offence window for the 2015 and 2016 cohorts.

3. How is the Probation Re-offending rate calculated?

To calculate the rate of re-offending it is necessary to match records from data collated by the Irish Probation Service with the Garda PULSE data.

The matching process results in the selection of a PULSE identifier (or identifiers) for each subject. Convictions data is then examined to determine if individuals who were placed under the supervision of the Probation Service had any subsequent convictions.

4. How are records matched?

Due to the absence of a common identification process in the Irish Criminal Justice system the matching process involves the comparison of individual records. In the region of 80% of all matches can be made automatically using common characteristics that have been recorded by each authority.

Due to data quality issues and limitations on the reliability of some information provided to law enforcement authorities, the remaining 20% of matches require manual examination. There are clear guidelines in place in relation to the acceptance or rejection of matches, but a certain level of subjectivity is inevitable in the absence of a unique identifier.

5. Are all records matched?

It is not possible to find a match for all Probation records in the Garda PULSE dataset. Among the reasons why this maybe the case are: the subjects name is a common one, the subject provided incorrect details to law enforcement officials or data quality issues. In the case of the 2014 cohort, 22 records were not included in the analysis because of a technical issue in the transfer of data. The 22 records related to individuals sentenced in relation to high volume crimes. CSO guidelines state that a minimum of 95% of records must be matched. 

6. Are these statistics "Under Reservation"?

These statistics are produced using a combination of Garda Síochána and Probation Service records. All statistics produced by the CSO that utilise the PULSE dataset are classified as Under Reservation. The classification has been applied to reflect the concerns of the CSO as to the completeness and accuracy of PULSE data.

Further information on the rationale for, and the implications of, the Under Reservation classification may be found here: Statistics Under Reservation FAQs

7. Are the rates of Probation and Prison Re-offending comparable?

The Probation and Prison publications were developed separately. They were designed primarily to meet the information needs of the Irish Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service. The needs of these organisations are broadly similar but there are some differences. For example, convictions must be secured within 24 months of the date that the crime incident was reported to be included in the calculation of the Probation Re-offending rate. No such requirement exists with respect to the calculation of the Prison Reoffending rate. Certain offences such as traffic offences are not included in the calculation of the rate. The exact list of exclusions differs somewhat between the publications.

 It is also important to bear in mind that the characteristics of the cohorts under consideration also differs. The prison cohort tend to have committed more serious offences than their probation counterparts. Due to the differences discussed it is not possible to make direct comparisons.

8. Is it possible to make comparisons across jurisdictions?

The definitions used in re-offending studies are not standardised internationally. The period after the Probation Order during which re-offences are considered varies across jurisdictions. There are also variations as to what constitutes a re-offence. In some countries a custodial sentence is necessary whereas others consider rearrest to be an appropriate measure.

It is extremely difficult to compare re-offending rates across jurisdictions due to differences in definitions, data quality, legal systems, legal culture and justice policy. Controlling for these differences would be a complex, but essential, process to draw meaningful conclusions from comparisons.

Go to next chapter: 2016 Results