PPS publishes 2020-21 statistical bulletin

24 June 2021

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) today published its Statistical Bulletin 2020/21 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 2020/21 financial year (i.e. 1 April 2020 to 31 March 2021) and includes comparisons with the 2019/20 financial year.

Key findings

During 2020/21:

  • The PPS received a total of 40,656 files, a decrease of 6.2% on 2019/20 (43,332). Of these 40,656 files, 40,172 were received from Police.
  • The majority of files received from Police were within two offence classifications: 31.8% related to ‘motoring offences’ (12,767) and 28.2% related to ‘violence against the person’ offences (11,321). The only offence classification to have an increase on 2019/20 was motoring offences with a rise of 0.1% and theft saw the biggest decrease with a fall of 20.8% on the previous year.
  • In addition to the files received from the PSNI, 484 files were submitted to PPS by government departments and agencies. Of these, 52.7% were received from the Driver and Vehicle Agency and 14.0% from the Department for Communities.
  • A total of 45,628 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS. The Test for Prosecution was met for 70.3% of cases which included 29,184 decisions for prosecution and 2,876 for diversion from the courts.
  • Of the 13,568 decisions for no prosecution, the vast majority (97.2%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 2.8% did not pass the public interest test.
  • Median calendar days required for the issue of an indictable prosecution decision (prosecution in the Crown Court) increased during the current period to 208 days, up from 148 days during 2019/20. Summary prosecutions decisions (prosecution in the Magistrates’ or Youth Court) required a median of 4 days, which is the same as in the previous financial year.
  • There were 1,077 defendants dealt with in the Crown Court. This was a decrease of 31.7% on the previous financial year (1,576). The overall conviction rate in the Crown Court was 91.6% compared with 87.6% in 2019/20.
  • A total of 21,315 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, a decrease of 26.3% on 2019/20 (28,936). The conviction rate in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts was 81.1%, similar to 2019/20 (81.3%).

Commenting on the publication of the statistical bulletin, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, said: “The figures contained in this report help us assess our performance in the time period covering the first 12 months of the global pandemic in what was a most disruptive and at times unsettling year for victims and witnesses, the PPS and the wider criminal justice system.

“The pandemic has resulted in the reduction in the volume of recorded crimes and subsequently the number of files passed to the PPS from police. There was also a significant reduction in the number of cases before the courts.

“However, I am pleased to note continued robust court outcomes, with high conviction rates maintained in both the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, and in indictable cases before the Crown Court.

“We acknowledge that the pandemic has resulted in some unavoidable delay in issuing decisions in the most serious cases. I remain fully committed to working with criminal justice partners and the Criminal Justice Board to speed up the criminal justice process, and to maintaining the confidence of victims and witnesses.

“We are involved in a range of cross-cutting initiatives to make the justice system faster and more efficient, and the primary aim of our Covid recovery plan is to clear the backlog of cases due to be heard in the Crown and Magistrates’ Court, while ensuring that a high quality of decision making and services to victims and witnesses is maintained.

“To victims and witnesses who are facing delays to their case I would like to reassure you that no case or person will be forgotten about, so please continue to be patient and stay with us.  We will continue to keep you informed of progress and you will be supported throughout by PPS and our partner organisations.”

Notes to editors

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

Please note that the figures contained within this report reflect a period in which the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic was felt across the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland. For example, the 2020/21 financial year has seen reduced levels of crime generally, as evidenced by police recorded crime statistics. The volume of business carried out in the criminal courts has also been severely affected by the pandemic. During the early months of the emergency, all court business was restricted to only four main court ‘hubs’ in Belfast, Lisburn, Dungannon and Londonderry, with only urgent matters being dealt with. As a result, the PPS was constrained in terms of the numbers of new cases that could be listed in the Crown, Magistrates’ and Youth Courts.

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 input on a daily basis.

The full bulletin may be viewed on the PPS website 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.gsi.gov.uk

Media queries should be referred to the PPS Communications Unit by emailing ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271804 and 07795 480234.