PPS publishes annual statistical bulletin for 2023-24

Publication date:

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) today published its Statistical Bulletin 2023/24, 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 decisions not to prosecute, and the outcomes of prosecutions at court.

The statistics relate to the 2023/24 financial year (i.e. 1 April 2023 to 31 March 2024) and includes comparisons with the 2022/23 financial year.

Key findings

During 2023/24: 

  • The PPS received a total of 43,977 files, a decrease of 1.6% on 2022/23 (44,687). Of these 43,977 files, 43,363 were received from Police.
  • The majority of files received from Police were within two offence classifications: 32.1% related to ‘motoring offences’ offences (13,917) and 27.5% related to ‘violence against the person’ (11,922). The classification ‘sexual offences’ saw the biggest decrease with a fall of 12.8% on the previous year.
  • In addition to the files received from the PSNI, 614 files were submitted to PPS by government departments and agencies. Of these, 26.1% were received from Companies house, 19.4% were received from the Driver and Vehicle Agency and 16.4% were received from the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.
  • A total of 48,665 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS. The Test for Prosecution was met for 70.2% of cases which included 31,144 decisions for prosecution and 2,999 for diversion from the courts.
  • Of the 14,522 decisions for no prosecution, the vast majority (97.3%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 2.7% 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 204 days, up from 193 days during 2022/23. Summary prosecutions decisions (prosecution in the Magistrates’ or Youth Court) required a median of 12 days, which is higher than the previous financial year (6 days).
  • There were 1,645 defendants dealt with in the Crown Court. This was a decrease of 6.5% on the previous financial year (1,759). The overall conviction rate in the Crown Court was 87.0% compared with 86.6% in 2022/23. 
  • A total of 30,219 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts, a decrease of 0.4% on 2022/23 (30,352). The conviction rate in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts was 79.1%, similar to 2022/23 (78.8%).

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Stephen Herron, said: “As a key part of the criminal justice system, we publish these annual statistics to promote transparency and aid public understanding and confidence in our role and performance. We welcome open conversations about our work and how we can continually improve our approach to cases, and support victims and witnesses. 

“It is not for the PPS to decide innocence or guilt, but to put cases that meet our legal Test for Prosecution before the courts. However, conviction rates are undoubtedly a key element that show the public that the system is working effectively. I am therefore pleased to see that our conviction rates remain high at 87% in the Crown Court and 79.1% in the Magistrates and Youth Courts. I hope this provides reassurance to the public that the system is working as it should and cases are being prosecuted fairly, but robustly. 

“We are a demand-led organisation, and must consider every case we receive from police and other investigatory agencies. The Bulletin shows that last year we received almost 44,000 files from investigators, and issued 48,665 prosecution decisions. 

“We know that delay is one of the biggest and most complex challenges facing the entire criminal justice system, and is of great concern to victims and witnesses. All parts of the system – from report to police, to consideration by the PPS and disposal at court – move too slowly and we are at the centre of cross-cutting efforts to address this.

“The time it takes us to take decision on files has increased from last year, although it is largely in line with longer term trends (median calendar days required for a Crown Court case decision to issue was 204 days, up from 193 days during 2023/24). With many factors at play, it is difficult to be definitive about the precise reasons for this. However, we know that we are facing increasing demand, partly due to the increasingly complex and changing nature of crime, and that some offence types are more resource intensive for the criminal justice system to deal with. 

“For example, there has been a huge rise in recent years in digital evidence that must be gathered and considered in many cases. Some offence types, including domestic and sexual abuse, necessitate a high level of engagement with police. These factors inevitably impact on the time it takes us to take decisions and progress cases to court, and the system needs to do more to address these issues. I want to assure victims and witnesses that we progress cases as quickly as we can while delivering a high-quality service. We prioritise the most vulnerable victims and will continue to work with our partners to play our part in tackling the root causes of delay in the system and improving efficiency. 

“I hope the largely steady picture reflected in this Bulletin underlines our commitment to providing a fair, effective and impartial prosecution service to the people of Northern Ireland. I also want to commend PPS staff including the external Counsel we engage for their unstinting hard work and dedication to serving the interests of justice and the needs of victims and witnesses.” 
Further information: 

This summary should be read in conjunction with the explanatory notes and user information provided (see pages 14 - 19 of the Statistical Bulletin).

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 the PPS website.

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.gov.uk

Website: www.ppsni.gov.uk

For media queries please contact the PPS Press Office ppspressoffice@ppsni.gov.uk