The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) today published its Statistical Bulletin 2021/22, 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 2021/22 financial year (i.e. 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022) and includes comparisons with previous years.
- The PPS received a total of 40,168 files, a decrease of 1% on 2020/21 (40,656). Of these 40,168 files, 39,605 were received from Police.
- The majority of files received from Police were within two offence classifications: 31% related to ‘violence against the person’ (12,236) and 29% related to ‘motoring offences’ (11,494). The classification ‘burglary’ saw the biggest relative decrease with a fall of 19% on the previous year.
- In addition to the files received from the PSNI, 565 files were submitted to PPS by government departments and agencies. Of these, 56% were received from the Driver and Vehicle Agency and 17% from the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
- A total of 45,193 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS. The Test for Prosecution was met for 69% of cases which included 28,361 decisions for prosecution and 2,911 for diversion from the courts.
- Of the 13,921 decisions for no prosecution, the vast majority (97%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 3% did not pass the public interest test.
- Median calendar days required for the issue of an indictable prosecution decision (prosecution in the Crown Court) was 209 days, similar to 2020/21 (208 days). Summary prosecution 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 1,608 defendants dealt with in the Crown Court. This was an increase of 49% on the previous financial year (1,077). The overall conviction rate in the Crown Court was 88% compared with 92% in 2020/21.
- A total of 28,740 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, an increase of 35% on 2020/21 (21,315). The conviction rate in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts was 80%, similar to 2020/21 (81%).
Commenting on the publication of the statistical bulletin, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, said: “The figures contained in this report cover the second year of the Covid pandemic. Although we saw restrictions ease during this time, with court sittings increasing to full capacity, it continued to be a challenging time for victims and witnesses, the PPS and the wider criminal justice system as it coped with the inevitable backlogs that have built up.
“Despite the challenges, as life returned to some sort of normality, we can see that there was a significant increase in the number of cases before the courts. This rise was seen most markedly is the Crown Courts, with 1,608 defendants being dealt with in this period, an increase of 49% on 2020/21 (1,077). This is encouraging as it means that more cases – including the most serious cases tried on indictment – are moving through the system, providing a criminal justice outcome for victims, witnesses and defendants.
“Court outcomes continued to be strong, with only very slight reductions in the high conviction rates in both the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, and in indictable cases before the Crown Court.
“We acknowledge that delay in the system remains one of the biggest challenges across the criminal justice system, and we are particularly aware of its detrimental impact on victims and witnesses. We are involved in a range of cross-cutting initiatives with our criminal justice partners and the Criminal Justice Board to make the justice system faster and more efficient, including dealing with the backlogs caused by the pandemic, along with the impact of pre-pandemic delays and chronic funding pressures.
“In the year ahead, PPS staff will continue to work to provide a high-quality, impartial and independent prosecution service to the people of Northern Ireland. We will continue to work towards maintaining our consistently strong conviction rates whilst ensuring the integrity of the trial process and improving outcomes for victims.
“We are committed to doing all we can to improve the experience of victims and witnesses in the system, and we commend their fortitude in what has been a particularly difficult period. We will continue to keep them informed of progress in their case and offer information and support through our Victim and Witness Care Unit and the victim representative groups with whom we work.”
This summary should be read in conjunction with the explanatory notes and user information provided (see pages 13 - 18 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 saw reduced levels of crime generally, as evidenced by police recorded crime statistics. The volume of business carried out in the criminal courts was also 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 or downloaded from our website.
Any member of the public may comment on the report by contacting PPS as follows:
Policy and Information Unit
Public Prosecution Service
93 Chichester Street
Belfast BT1 3JR
Tel: 02890 897100
Deaf / hard of hearing (SMS): 07795 675528
Media queries should be referred to the PPS Communications Unit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07920 271 804.