There has been a notable rise in the strong levels of confidence the public has in the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) to provide a fair and impartial service, an independent survey has revealed.
According to the findings of the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey published today (Wednesday 17 June 2020), 76.6% of those questioned said they were either very or fairly confident in the fairness and impartiality of the PPS. This was a 7.9 percentage point increase on 2018 (68.7%).
Those surveyed were also asked about the independence of the PPS. Almost 70% of respondents (69.1%) stated that they were confident that the PPS was independent of police, Government or any other body. This was a 4.3 percentage point increase on 2018 (64.8%).
Commenting on the findings, the Director of Public Prosecutions Stephen Herron said: “The PPS sits at the heart of the criminal justice system and we have three key aims that underpin everything we do – to be independent, fair and effective.
“It is heartening to see that the public continue to hold strong levels of confidence in those key pillars of our service. I am even more encouraged to note a rise in confidence in the past year, with more than three quarters of respondents (76.6%) having confidence that we provide a fair and impartial prosecution service to the people of Northern Ireland.
“It is also reassuring that this broad public support is reflected when the survey looked at the religious background breakdown of those questioned.
“The Covid-19 pandemic presents significant challenges to the whole justice system and wider society. The PPS remains determined to deliver a modern and fit for purpose service for the people of Northern Ireland, and to meet our commitments to victims and witnesses. Part of this is to ensure that the nature of our work is understood and we are open and transparent in our decision making, which undoubtedly is linked to the levels of public confidence in the PPS.
“I would like to publicly acknowledge the exceptional work of PPS staff in maintaining our essential services during these challenging times.”
This is the second year that the Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey respondents were asked for their views on the Public Prosecution Service.
The bulletin - entitled “Perceptions of the Public Prosecution Service”, provides information on levels of public awareness of the PPS, as well as public confidence in the fairness, effectiveness and independence of the organisation.
The survey was conducted over the period from 10th September 2019 to 6th February 2020.
Key findings from the four questions asked in the 2019 survey include:
- More than four fifths of respondents (83.1%) stated that they had heard of the PPS (2018: 80.8%). This includes 84.4% of Catholics and 87.7% of Protestants who had heard of the PPS.
- Approximately two-thirds of respondents (66.3%) were confident that the PPS is effective at prosecuting people accused of committing a crime (2018: 64.2%). This includes 64.7% of Catholics and 66.8% of Protestants who were confident that the PPS is effective at prosecuting people accused of committing a crime.
- More than three-quarters of respondents (76.6%) were confident that the PPS provides a fair and impartial prosecution service (2018: 68.7%). This includes 71.1% of Catholics and 78.5% of Protestants who were confident that the PPS provides a fair and impartial prosecution service.
- Nearly seven-tenths of respondents (69.1%) were confident that the PPS takes prosecution decisions independently (2018: 64.8%). This includes 64.5% of Catholics and 73.4% of Protestants who were confident that the PPS takes prosecution decisions independently.
Notes to Editors
The Northern Ireland Life and Times (NILT) Survey was launched by the University of Ulster and Queen’s University of Belfast in the autumn of 1998. Its mission is to monitor the attitudes and behaviour of people in Northern Ireland annually to provide a time-series and a public record of how attitudes and behaviour develop on a wide range of social policy issues. The survey is run on a modular format and aims to provide a local resource for use by the general public and a data source for public and academic debate.
This is the second year that Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey respondents were asked for their views on the Public Prosecution Service. A total of four questions specific to the PPS were included to gauge the following:
- Public awareness of the PPS (Question 1);
- Views as to the PPS’s effectiveness in prosecuting people accused of committing a crime (Question 2);
- Public perceptions of the PPS’s fairness and impartiality (Question 3); and
- Public perceptions of the PPS’s independence (Question 4).
Question 1 was asked of all respondents. Questions 2, 3 and 4 relate only to those respondents who had heard of the PPS (i.e. respondents who had answered ‘yes’ at (Question 1).
Detailed notes have been supplied, which provide an account of the technical aspects of the survey, including the origin of the sample, response rates and its representativeness (see Annex 2: Technical Notes, page 15 of the bulletin). It should be noted that the 2019 NILT Survey has produced a relatively high proportion of people who answered ‘don’t know’ in response to the questions. These ‘don’t knows’ have been excluded from the main body of the report. As such, the focus of the bulletin is on those people who have offered an opinion regarding the PPS.
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 bulletin may be viewed or downloaded by clicking the link.
For media enquiries please contact PPS Communications atb PPSPressOffice@psni.gov.uk
For out of hours media queries please call 07920 271 804.