Northern Ireland

Charity Commission 'looking into' issues with Community Restorative Justice Ireland

The Executive Office has pulled funding from Community Restorative Justice Ireland after financial irregularities were reported last month
The Executive Office has pulled funding from Community Restorative Justice Ireland after financial irregularities were reported last month

THE Charity Commission has confirmed it is looking into issues around Community Restorative Justice Ireland, after financial irregularities were reported to it and police.

The Executive Office (TEO) has pulled funding from the group after the irregularities were reported last month.

An auditor is understood to be looking at a series of transactions.

TEO - CRJI's biggest funder - gave around £1.2 million to the group in the last financial year.

CRJI is also involved in projects with the Department for Communities, the Department of Justice and the Belfast health trust.

It is understood that staff were involved in lengthy meetings yesterday.

In a statement on Thursday night,CRJI Chairman Michael O'Hara said: "Having raised the issue ourselves with relevant stakeholders, we will of course cooperate fully with any external investigation which arises. An internal investigation is also ongoing and it would therefore be inappropriate and potentially prejudicial to that process to make further public comment at this juncture."

He added: "CRJI remains committed to the highest standards of corporate governance and delivering for the communities with whom we work."

CRJI, founded in 1998, provides restorative justice services including victim support, youth mentoring, advice, and mediation.

The group was accredited by the Department of Justice in 2008.

A spokesman for TEO said CRJI notified it of "issues of concern".

"In line with TEO protocol, an internal investigation is underway and funding has been suspended until the matter is resolved," he said.

"It would not be appropriate to comment further."

A spokeswoman for the Charity Commission said it has been "made aware of allegations relating to the charity, Community Restorative Justice Ireland and can confirm that it is looking into the issues raised".

"No further comment will be provided while that work is ongoing," he said.

A spokesman for the Belfast trust said it has not withdrawn funding to CRJI.

"Belfast trust has not suspended funding in relation to services provided by Community Restorative Justice Ireland," he said.

"There are Trust processes in place to monitor, review and provide assurance in relation to contracted services delivered by the provider to meet the needs of vulnerable individuals and families which continue to be required."

A PSNI spokesman said: "Community Restorative Justice Ireland is an accredited criminal justice organisation.

"They are an important community partner who continue to do positive work.

"Our officers will continue to engage with groups from all communities who represent the needs of victims.

"Chief Inspector Peter Brannigan has been on the Board of CRJI, acting as a Police representative since 2016.

"As a member of the Board he was made aware of financial irregularities.

"These were reported to the PSNI, Charities Commission and funders in July 2022. We will keep this situation under review and will continue to liaise with The Executive Office in relation to the matter."

The Department of Justice and Department for Communities have been contacted.