High levels of public confidence in the PPS

10 June 2021

More than two thirds of survey respondents have confidence that the Public Prosecution Service provides a fair and impartial prosecution service to the people of Northern Ireland, an independent survey has revealed.[1]

According to the findings of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey published today (Thursday 10 June 2021), 70.3% of those questioned said they were either very or fairly confident in the fairness and impartiality of the PPS. This was a 6.3 percentage point decrease upon 2019 (76.6%) but similar to the 2018 figure (68.7%).

Those surveyed were also asked about the independence of the PPS. Around seven-tenths of all respondents (69.1%) stated that they were confident that the PPS was independent of police, Government or any other body. This was the same as in 2019 (69.1%) and a 4.3 percentage point increase on 2018 (64.8%).

This is the third year that the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey respondents were asked for their views on the Public Prosecution Service.[2]

The Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “The PPS sits at the heart of the criminal justice system and it is essential that the public understands our role and have confidence in the crucial work we do. 

“PPS staff work very hard to provide a service that is independent, fair and effective, particularly so during the pandemic. It is therefore satisfying to see that even with the disruption to services caused by Covid-19 across the criminal justice system, the public hold strong levels of confidence in the key aims of our service.

“It is also assuring to note this broad public support is shared almost equally when the survey looked at the age, gender and religious breakdown of those questioned.

“We will be focussing our communications strategy on maintaining high levels of public confidence through a balanced, open and transparent approach to our work.”

The bulletin - entitled 'Perceptions of the Public Prosecution Service', provides information on levels of public awareness of the PPS, as well as public confidence in the fairness, effectiveness and independence of the organisation.

The survey was conducted over the period from 8th October 2020 to 8th December 2020.

Key findings

Results from the four questions asked in the 2020 survey were as follows:

  • Around nine-tenths of respondents (90.7%) stated that they had heard of the PPS (2019: 83.1%).
  • More than three-fifths of respondents (62.1%) were confident that the PPS is effective at prosecuting people accused of committing a crime (2019: 66.3%).
  • More than two-thirds of respondents (70.3%) were confident that the PPS provides a fair and impartial prosecution service (2019: 76.6%).
  • Around seven-tenths of respondents (69.1%) were confident that the PPS takes prosecution decisions independently showing no change since 2019 (2019: 69.1%).

[1] All findings exclude ‘Don’t Know’ responses – i.e. refers only to those who offered an opinion on the     PPS.

[2] These questions were previously asked via the Northern Ireland Omnibus Survey. Findings can be found by clicking the link. 


Notes to Editors 

The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey was launched by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University of Belfast in the autumn of 1998. Its mission is to monitor the attitudes and behaviour of people in Northern Ireland annually to provide a time-series and a public record of how attitudes and behaviour develop on a wide range of social policy issues. The survey is run on a modular format and aims to provide a local resource for use by the general public and a data source for public and academic debate.

This is the third year that Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey respondents were asked for their views on the Public Prosecution Service. A total of four questions specific to the PPS were included to gauge the following:

  • Public awareness of the PPS (Question 1);
  • Views as to the PPS’s effectiveness in prosecuting people accused of committing a crime (Question 2);
  • Public perceptions of the PPS’s fairness and impartiality (Question 3); and
  • Public perceptions of the PPS’s independence (Question 4).

Question 1 was asked of all respondents. Questions 2, 3 and 4 relate only to those respondents who had heard of the PPS (i.e. respondents who had answered ‘yes’ at (Question 1).

Detailed notes have been supplied, which provide an account of the technical aspects of the survey, including the origin of the sample, response rates and its representativeness (see Annex 4: Technical Notes, page 20 of the bulletin). It should be noted that, as in 2018 and 2019, this latest tranche of the survey has produced a relatively high proportion of people who answered ‘don’t know’ in response to the questions. These ‘don’t knows’ have been excluded from the main body of the report. As such, the focus of the bulletin is on those people who have offered an opinion regarding the PPS.

The information gathered via the survey is used by the PPS for a variety of purposes, such as informing the development of policy and assessing the effectiveness of the Service’s Communication and Outreach Strategies. Data in respect of the PPS’s effectiveness and its fairness and impartiality are also used as key performance indicators for the Service.

These are ‘Official Statistics’ as defined in Section 6 of the Statistics and Registration Services Act 2007. Statisticians from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency are seconded to the PPS and are responsible for ensuring that the statistics produced comply with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

The bulletin may be viewed or downloaded by clicking the link. Any member of the public may comment on the report by contacting PPS as follows:

Policy and Information Unit

Public Prosecution Service

Belfast Chambers

93 Chichester Street

Belfast BT1 3JR

Tel: 02890 897100

Deaf / hard of hearing (SMS): 07795 675528

Email: info@ppsni.gov.uk

Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804.