THE PROBATION DIVISION
- The Probation Division is a criminal justice service directed by the Courts of Tonga that is mainly responsible for overseeing offenders released on probation by Court order; and the provision of reports to the Court to aid with their sentencing.
- We are dedicated to providing professional services to offenders through proficient assessments of their risks and needs and fostering behavioral changes for a better life.
The road to attaining our mission is based on the following core values:
- We recognize that each offender has equal rights to be treated with respect, fairness and dignity;
- Public safety is prioritized in assessing offenders to be released at large;
- We encourage community services as a more productive sanction than imprisonment;
- Each offender has a different personal background and this is considered in understanding criminal behavior;
- Each offender has the potential to change for the better; and
- All in all, our work is guided with compassion and social justice.
- When an offender is convicted of an indictable offence, the court will order for a pre-sentence report to be made by a probation officer. A pre-sentence report assists the court in determining an appropriate sentence for the offender. By this, the probation officer will conduct multiple interviews with persons relevant to the offender.
Elements of a Pre-sentence Interview
Between the date of the court order and the date of sentence, the probation officer will conduct a thorough enquiry on the offender including a background check on his or her social, religious, financial and criminal background. The probation officer will also look at his attitude towards the present offending and previous criminal sentences. Throughout the investigation, the probation officer may conduct interview with the offender, family members and other relevant persons. The offender’s criminal record is also important to consider and disclose in the report.
The officer will then examine the information gathered and determine whether the offender is in need of rehabilitation, or should serve community work service instead of imprisonment. The officer will then recommend to court for a conditional suspension to allow rehabilitation and community sentence. However, if the information reveals high risk factors of re-offending or harmful to the community then the officer will recommend a full custodial sentence without suspension. Once the report is complete, the probation officer will submit to the court for assessment before the sentence date.
The judge will impose a suitable sentence on the offender. If the offender receives a conditional or suspended sentence, then he or she will be placed on probation, unless court explicitly state otherwise.
- Offender will be consistently monitored by the probation team. He or she must attend to the probation office for regular update of standard of compliance to court order. Offender must also not commit any offence punishable by imprisonment during this term and must live where directed by the court. The probation team will conduct several home visits to the offender’s home to affirm family / communal support and compliance to order.
- Community work offenders are directed by probation officer to conduct unpaid supervisory work that benefits the community. Number of hours of service must be below 200hrs. The offender must complete the community work service within 12 months from the date of sentence.
- There are only a few organizations that offer rehabilitation services to offenders in Tonga. This includes The Salvation Army, Women Crisis Center and Tonga National Center for Women.
- For offenders who fail to comply with the court order will be reported to Court for breach of sentence and may serve imprisonment.