PPS maintains high conviction rates in Crown and Magistrates’ Courts

09 July 2020

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has maintained high rates of conviction in both the Magistrates’ and Crown Court, according to an independent statistical report.

The PPS today published its Statistical Bulletin 2019/20, which presents key statistics on the activity of the PPS including files received, caseloads and prosecutorial decisions. It also covers decision types, including reasons for no prosecution, and the outcomes of prosecutions at court.

The statistics relate to the 2019/20 financial year (i.e. 1 April 2019 to 31 March 2020) and include comparisons with the 2018/19 financial year.

The breakdown of PPS performance shows a conviction rate of 87.6% in the Crown Court, where the most serious criminal offences are tried. This compares to 84.4% in 2018/19. The conviction rate at the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts rose slightly from 81.1% to 81.3%.    

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, welcomed the detailed analysis of caseloads and outcomes provided by the bulletin. 

“The information contained in this bulletin is key in helping us to analyse our performance and plan effectively. We are also committed to the openness and transparency it provides. 

“I want to pay tribute to the dedication and diligence of PPS staff and our criminal justice partners in ensuring that prosecution cases are brought fairly and effectively before our courts.

“It is particularly encouraging and important for public confidence to see the continued robust court outcomes. The increase in conviction rates in the Crown Court is significant when set against the demands of dealing with increasingly complex casework.  It is also notable that the number of defendants being dealt with in the Crown Court was 1,576 in 2019/20 as compared with 1,458 in 2018/19, an increase of 8.1%.

“The fact that there is often a traumatised victim at the centre of these crimes is at the forefront of our minds. We want to listen to and understand the needs of victims and we continue to build on our relationships with a range of representative groups and agencies to ensure that victims’ needs are addressed throughout the prosecution process. 

“This bulletin relates to the period before the current pandemic, which will undoubtedly have an impact on how quickly cases can be progressed through the justice system. I would take this opportunity to underline that the PPS has been working closely with other criminal justice stakeholders on an over-arching plan for recovering the system as safely and effectively as possible.”

Other key findings from the bulletin include:

During 2019/20:

  • The PPS received a total of 43,332 files, an increase of 0.1% on 2018/19 (43,298). Of these 43,332 files, 42,383 were received from police.
  • The majority of files received from police were within two offence classifications: 30.2% related to ‘motoring offences’ (12,813) and 26.8% related to ‘violence against the person’ offences (11,356). There was a rise of 8.7% in the number of files received involving drugs offences and a 10.1% decrease in fraud and forgery offences.
  • In addition to the files received from the PSNI, 949 files were submitted to PPS by government departments and agencies. Of these, 40.3% were received from the Driver and Vehicle Agency and 29.2% from the Department for Communities.
  • A total of 50,174 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS. The Test for Prosecution was met for 69.6% of cases which included 31,447 decisions for prosecution and 3,464 for diversion from the courts.
  • Of the 15,263 decisions for no prosecution, the vast majority (96.8%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 3.2% did not pass the public interest test.
  • Median calendar days required for the issue of an indictable prosecution decision (prosecution in the Crown Court) decreased during the period to 148 days, down from 166 days during 2018/19. Summary prosecutions decisions (prosecution in the Magistrates’ or Youth Court) required a median of four days, unchanged from the previous financial year.
  • There were 1,576 defendants dealt with in the Crown Court. This was an increase of 8.1% on the previous financial year (1,458). The overall conviction rate in the Crown Court was 87.6% compared with 84.4% in 2018/19.
  • A total of 28,936 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, a decrease of 0.8% on 2018/19 (29,155). The conviction rate in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts was 81.3%, similar to 2018/19 (81.1%).

Further information

This summary should be read in conjunction with the explanatory notes and user information provided (see pages 17-21 of the Statistical Bulletin).

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 information presented in this bulletin is derived from the Case Management System, the main operational system within the PPS. This is a ‘live’ system with data being inputted on a daily basis.

The full bulletin may be viewed or downloaded here: https://www.ppsni.gov.uk/quarterly-statistical-bulletin. Any member of the public may comment on the report by contacting PPS:

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

Website: www.ppsni.gov.uk

For media enquiries, please contact the PPS Communications Unit by emailing PPSPressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk