Probation Service

What is the Probation Service?

The Probation Service is the lead State agency for assessing and managing offenders (people convicted of an offence) in the community.

The Probation Service works with offenders and others to:

  • Reduce offending
  • Support rehabilitation
  • Make communities safer

Assessing offenders for the courts

If you are in court for a criminal offence and you plead guilty or are found guilty, the judge can ask the Probation Service to complete an assessment report before deciding on your sentence.

There are 2 types of assessment reports:

  • Pre-sanction report (also known as a probation report)
  • Community service report

The judge can request one, or both, of these reports. The case is adjourned until the report is ready to be presented to the court.

The Probation Service can only make a recommendation in its report. The judge will decide how to proceed with the case.

Generally, assessment reports are completed within 8 weeks for adults and within 4 weeks for young people.

Pre-sanction report (or probation report)

If a pre-sanction report is requested, you will be assessed to see if you are suitable for a non-prison sentence.

This report will include detailed information about you, including:

  • Personal and family circumstances
  • Your attitude towards the crime you have committed
  • Whether you accept responsibility for your actions
  • Whether you are an alcoholic or drug addict
  • Information that shows you are committed to improving your behaviour (for example, attending a drug treatment clinic)
  • Anything in your life that might indicate a risk of reoffending

The report may also suggest conditions for a non-prison sentence. For example, that you should move away from a residential area where you were getting into trouble or that you must attend treatment for an addiction.

Community service report

If a community service report is requested, you will be assessed to see if you are suitable to do unpaid work in the community instead of going to prison.

The Probation Service can only recommend a community sanction where they believe that you can be supervised in a community setting without risk of reoffending.

You can read more about assessment of offenders for probation.

Supervising offenders in the community

Supervising offenders in the community is the main part of the Probation Service’s work.

Probation order

The judge may decide to grant a probation order to place you under the supervision of the Probation Service in the community.

When placed on probation supervision, you must keep in regular contact with your probation officer and obey all conditions of the order. A probation order will not last longer than 3 years.

Community service

If the court decides that you can serve your sentence in the community rather than in prison, they may grant a community service order. This allows you to do unpaid work in the community instead of going to prison.

To be eligible for community service, you must be 16 or over and your sentence must be 12 months or less.

The judge will tell you:

  • How many hours of work you must complete (between 40 and 240 hours)
  • The prison sentence that will be imposed if you do not complete the work

The Probation Service organises the work placement and is responsible for informing the court if you do not complete the work.

Community Return Scheme

Under the Community Return Scheme, you can complete unpaid community work as a condition of early release from your prison sentence.

Prisoners are assessed by the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service to see if they are suitable for the scheme.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Be assessed as posing no threat to the community
  • Be serving a sentence that is more than 1 year but less than 8 years
  • Have served at least 50% of your sentence

You must work on the days assigned for an agreed length of time. The work usually takes place near the end of your sentence.

Post-release supervision of sex offenders

If you are a sex offender, you can be sentenced to a period of supervision following your release from prison. This is called a post-release supervision order.

You are monitored by the Probation Service when you are released to ensure that you comply with the conditions of the order.

Prisoners on temporary release

If you are on temporary release from custody, the Probation Service supervises you until your period of release has ended.

Life sentence prisoners are normally supervised for the rest of their lives.

Suspended sentence

A judge may also suspend all or part of your prison sentence for a specified period of time, on condition that you stay under the supervision of a probation officer for that time.

Working with other community services

The Probation Service also partners with other services in the community to:

  • Reduce offending
  • Support rehabilitation
  • Develop local responses to crime
  • Improve public safety and social inclusion

This involves work in areas such as drugs, homelessness and domestic violence.

Probation Service staff refer offenders to community projects around Ireland, to help them to reintegrate and resettle.

Probation services for homeless people

If you are an offender who is or has been homeless, the Probation Service can link you to organisations in the community that can help you deal with issues like addiction, abuse and isolation.

If you are under probation supervision, they can also help you access services, including accommodation.

The Probation Service in prisons

The Probation Service works with a prison-based team, including the prison governor and other services. If you are a prisoner, they will help you manage your sentence and settle back into the community.

The Probation Service also prepares assessment reports on:

  • Prisoners, for the Parole Board
  • People remanded in custody while awaiting trial, for the courts

You can read more about the Probation Service and their work in prisons (pdf).

Repatriation of prisoners

The Probation Service provides assessment reports on prisoners from abroad who are being considered for transfer to their country of origin. This is required in applications under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Acts 1995 and 1997.

Probation services for young people

Young Persons Probation is a specialised division of the Probation Service.

They will work with you if you are aged between 12 and 18 and you:

  • Appear before the courts, or
  • Are in a child detention school

Detaining a child who is convicted of a crime is considered as a last resort. The Probation Service is involved in supervising several of the community sanctions available under the Children Act 2001.

You can read the Probation Service’s child safeguarding statement.

Victims of crime and restorative justice

The Probation Service has a Restorative Justice and Victim Services Unit (pdf) which provides information and support to victims of crime.

You can read about how the Probation Service works with victims of crime in Section 10 of the Victims Charter (pdf).

The Probation Service also prepares victim impact reports for the courts when required. These reports assess the impact that offences have had on victims of crime, usually violent crime.

Restorative justice

The restorative justice service allows victims to meet or communicate with offenders to describe how the crime has affected them.

You can read more about how restorative justice works in Ireland.


You can find contact details for local Probation Services on the Probation Service website.

Probation Service

Dublin 7
D07 WT27

Tel: +353 (0)1 817 3600
Fax: +353 (0)1 872 2737
Page edited: 19 July 2023