The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) and the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) have today launched a public consultation to seek views on a new joint Protocol regarding the exercise of criminal jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.
The purpose of the proposed Protocol is to provide guidance for prosecutors on the exercise of jurisdiction in respect of criminal conduct of a person subject to Service law, which occurs when that person is in Northern Ireland.
The SPA is the organisation within the Ministry of Defence responsible for consideration of cases referred to it by the Service Police and, where appropriate, the military. The PPS is the principal prosecuting authority in Northern Ireland, with responsibility for taking decisions as to prosecution in cases investigated by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI). At present, both authorities have jurisdiction in relation to criminal offending by an active member of the armed forces in Northern Ireland.
There is an existing non-statutory Protocol in place regarding the exercise of criminal jurisdiction in England and Wales, which will be revised following a parallel consultation process in that jurisdiction. However, no such Protocol is currently in place for Northern Ireland. In particular, the new proposed Protocol between the PPS and SPA identifies principles which are to be considered by a prosecutor when a decision is made as to the appropriate jurisdiction in which to bring proceedings.
Jonathan Rees KC, Director of Service Prosecutions (DSP), said: “The Service Justice System and the Civilian Justice System have concurrent jurisdiction over members of the armed forces who are alleged to have committed criminal offences in Northern Ireland. The same applies in Scotland, England and Wales.
“In order to assist prosecutors to decide which system is best placed to deal with a particular case, a protocol has been drafted for Northern Ireland which includes guidance as to the factors to be taken into consideration in accordance with the overriding principle, namely the promotion of fair and efficient justice. This draft protocol for Northern Ireland is now subject to a public consultation.
"Careful thought has been given to the numerous factors that have been included in the draft protocol to reflect the fundamental differences between the two jurisdictions and to take account of the best interests of victims and children, and considerations relevant to cases involving allegations of domestic abuse, sexual offending or child abuse."
Stephen Herron, Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland (DPPNI), welcomed the opportunity for the public and key stakeholders to have a say on the Protocol.
“I welcome the development of this Protocol which I hope will enhance understanding of how we take decisions where concurrent jurisdiction arises. The DSP and I have given careful consideration to the relevant factors and sought to ensure that the Protocol is comprehensive, whilst retaining sufficient flexibility to guide prosecutors to the best decisions having regard to the varying circumstances of any particular case.
“We look forward to receiving a range of views in response to this important consultation and we are committed to giving careful consideration to all responses.”
Notes to Editors:
- Further information, including the draft Protocol, can be accessed by clicking the link;
- The consultation will run for 8 weeks, until 20 April 2023. For information on how to submit a response, please visit the Citizen Space website.
- The Protocol has been placed on a statutory footing by section 7 of the Armed Forces Act 2021, which inserts section 320C into Chapter 3A of the Armed Forces Act 2006. Under the new statutory provisions, we are obliged to consult on the Protocol with the Secretary of State, the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and any other appropriate person;
- The Protocol will be published on the PPS and SPA websites when the agreement has been signed by the parties;
- For further information on the role of the SPA, please visit the SPA website;
- For further information on the role of the PPS, please visit the PPS website;
- Media queries for the PPS should be referred to the Communications Unit by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org inside office hours. The out of hours press officer can be contacted on 07341 800 254 or 07920 271 804.