PPS publishes Sexual Offences statistics

24 October 2019

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) today published its Statistical Bulletin: Cases Involving Sexual Offences 2018/19 which presents key statistics in relation to the prosecution of sexual offences, including rape.

The statistics relate to the full 2018/19 financial year and include caseloads, prosecutorial decisions and the outcomes of prosecutions at court involving these offences.

Speaking today, head of the PPS Serious Crime Unit, Ciaran McQuillan said:  “The prosecution of sexual offences remains a significant and complex challenge for all criminal justice partners. 

 “While there is much more work to be done to achieve the change required across the system, it is heartening to note that many findings contained in this Bulletin offer reasons to be positive. 

“Looking broadly, there has been an increase in the level of cases which are able to proceed to prosecution and we can see an improved conviction rate for sexual offences at both Crown Court and Magistrates’ Court level. 

“The rising number of files being reported to us by police – for example, there are 70% more rape files being received since 2015/16 - can also be interpreted as a sign that victims are feeling confident in coming forward to report their distressing experiences.”

Work to improve the PPS approach to sexual offending in the last year has included:  

  • Significant investment in and restructuring of the PPS Serious Crime Unit to increase staff levels and work more closely and efficiently with partner agencies and victims groups;
  • Developing closer relationships with the PSNI Public Protection Branch on sexual offences;
  • Work to implement the majority of recommendations from the Gillen Review which apply to the PPS;
  • Work with other stakeholders on a pilot to fast track cases of alleged very serious assault in the Crown Court involving children under 13. 

Mr McQuillan added: “The PPS remains fully committed to playing our part in the broader criminal justice change required to improve outcomes for victims of sexual offending, while ensuring that prosecutions are conducted fairly. 

“This Bulletin plays an important role in informing public understanding of, and the criminal justice system’s approach to, the widely recognised challenges of prosecuting sexual offences. 

“We acknowledge this remains a difficult area for all, not least victims who show such bravery in coming forward, but there are clear signs of progress.”

The Bulletin presents key statistics for the 2018/19 financial year and includes comparisons with the equivalent period of 2017/18. Revised statistics for the financial years 2015/16, 2016/17 and 2017/18 are also published today. This is the third Bulletin in this series which provides a statistical overview of all sexual offences.

Key findings

During the 2018/19 financial year:

  • The PPS received a total of 1,594 files involving a sexual offence. This was an increase of 7.6% on 2017/18 (1,482). There was a rise of 9.7% in the number of files received involving a rape offence, from 556 to 610.
  • Files received included a total of 1,685 suspects, 637 of whom were charged or reported for rape (an increase of 7.2% on 2017/18) and 1,048 for other sexual offences (an increase of 6.3%).
  • 1,721 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS in respect of suspects in cases involving sexual offences. The evidential Test for Prosecution was met in respect of 27.4% of decisions, which included 472 decisions for prosecution or diversion from the courts. At 27.4%, the percentage of decisions meeting the Test represents an increase on 2017/18 (25.1%).
  • Of the 1,249 decisions for no prosecution, the vast majority (98.0%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 2.0% did not pass the public interest test.
  • Median days for the issue of indictable prosecution decisions (prosecution in the Crown Court) in cases involving sexual offences was 256 calendar days (204 days in 2017/18). Median days for summary prosecution decisions (prosecution in the Magistrates’ or Youth Courts) was 45 days (39 in 2017/18).
  • A total of 157 defendants were dealt with in the Crown Court in cases involving sexual offences. The overall conviction rate was 64.3% compared with 58.2% in 2017/18.
  • Forty-eight defendants were dealt with in the Crown Court for an offence of rape and 27 of these were convicted of at least one offence (i.e. any offence). Ten defendants were convicted of an offence of rape.
  • A total of 167 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts for a sexual offence during 2018/19. The overall conviction rate was 71.3% compared with 67.4% in 2017/18

Further information

This summary should be read in conjunction with the explanatory notes and user information provided (see pages 24 - 29 of the Statistical Bulletin). Please also refer to the supporting document to this release Sexual Offences Classification (Offence Description and Legislation) available on the PPS website by clicking the link.  

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 by clicking the link. Any member of the public may comment on the report by contacting PPS as follows:

Statistics and Research
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 Enquiries please contact PPS Communications on 028 9089 7187.