The Public Prosecution Service is based across four locations, with offices in Belfast, Londonderry, Newry and a satellite office in Omagh.
There are six legal sections within the PPS, each headed by an Assistant Director who has overall responsibility for decision-making on investigation files and for the conduct of prosecutions in their section.
Corporate Services, led by the Senior Assistant Director for Resources and Change, provides a range of professional, technical and other support services.
Belfast and Eastern Region
The Belfast and Eastern Region considers files sent to the PPS by the PSNI, and by agencies such as the Harbour Police, regarding crimes committed in greater Belfast and the surrounding areas, from Ballymena to Newcastle.
With around 50 Public Prosecutors (including 11 Senior Public Prosecutors) and over 100 administrative staff, the Belfast and Eastern Region is the largest section in the organisation and deals with approximately 22,000 – 23,000 files each year.
Prosecutors in the Region deal with all offence types, except those specialised cases that are allocated to the Serious Crime Unit, Fraud and Departmental, Central Casework or High Court and International sections. Lynne Carlin, Assistant Director, heads the Belfast and Eastern Region, which covers courts in Belfast (Laganside), Antrim, Ballymena, Lisburn, Ards and Downpatrick.
Western and Southern Region
The Western and Southern Region covers a wide geographic area which includes counties Londonderry, Fermanagh, Armagh and Tyrone, as well as parts of North Antrim and South Down.
The Western and Southern Region deals with approximately 18,000 – 19,000 files each year. Like their colleagues in the Belfast and Eastern Region, prosecutors consider all offence types except those specialised cases dealt with by the Serious Crime Unit, Central Casework, Fraud and Departmental or High Court and International sections
The Assistant Director with responsibility for the Western and Southern Region is Aubrey Murray. Aubrey is in charge of a team of 44 prosecutors, who are based in Foyle Chambers and Newry Chambers.
The team also includes over 100 support staff who are based in the Foyle or Newry offices or the satellite premises in Omagh.
Courts in Enniskillen, Strabane, Omagh, Dungannon, Derry, Limavady, Coleraine and Magherafelt are serviced mainly from the Foyle Office, while courts in Armagh, Craigavon and Newry are serviced mainly from the Newry office.
Serious Crime Unit
The Serious Crime Unit (SCU) deals with a range of the most serious offences including murder, rape and other serious sexual offences, human trafficking, prostitution and related offences. The Unit is led by Assistant Director Ciaran McQuillan and has a dedicated team of nine Senior Public Prosecutors, four Public Prosecutors and three Higher Court Advocates, based in Belfast Chambers.
The Unit works mostly on the particularly complex casework associated with murder and serious sexual crimes, enabling the sharing of best practice and consistency of approach across the team.
A dedicated Gateway Team within the SCU assesses the quality of the files received from PSNI and provides guidance and support to PSNI investigating officers. This collaborative approach between PPS and PSNI is designed to provide a more efficient service for victims of serious crime.
SCU administrative support is provided by a dedicated SCU admin team as well as from the Casework and Court Support teams from the Belfast and Eastern Region team.
A Detective Sergeant from the PSNI is the dedicated PSNI/ PPS Liaison Officer for the Unit.
The Central Casework section considers some of the most high-profile and complex cases in Northern Ireland. A dedicated team of eight Senior Public Prosecutors work alongside administrative staff in a centralised function at Belfast Chambers, led by Assistant Director Martin Hardy.
Among the cases considered by Central Casework include all current terrorist cases, legacy cases relating to offences committed during the Troubles, gross negligence manslaughter, corruption, misfeasance in public office, serious complaints against police and serious organised crime cases. These complex case types may involve consideration of novel points of law where there may be little legal precedent.
High Court and International
The High Court and International section deals with a diverse range of complex judicial and international legal matters. The section is based at Belfast Chambers and is headed by Assistant Director Eilis McGrath. Eilis is in charge of a team of eight prosecutors and additional support staff.
High Court and International has responsibility for High Court bail applications, restraint and confiscation orders, extradition, international Letters of Request, judicial reviews, civil cases, unduly lenient sentences, appeals to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, and cases referred by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
Fraud and Departmental
The Fraud and Departmental section of the PPS deals with serious and complex fraud files submitted by the police and the National Crime Agency, as well as files from Northern Ireland government departments and their agencies including the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and HM Revenue and Customs.
In addition to fraud cases the section considers files such as pollution, benefit fraud, agriculture-related offences and health and safety offences, including workplace fatalities. The section is headed by Assistant Director Roger Davison, who leads a team of seven prosecutors and support staff. Fraud and Departmental is based in our Headquarters in Belfast Chambers.
Corporate Services, led by Senior Assistant Director Ian Hearst, provides the PPS with a variety of professional, technical and other support services. Comprising around 110 staff, Corporate Services includes the Victim and Witness Care Unit, Information and Communications Technology, the Resource Management Team, Finance and Fees, the Communications Unit, Business Assurance and Property Management.
The Policy and Information Unit also sits within Corporate Services. The Unit is responsible for a range of functions, including: the development of legal policy and guidance; legal quality assurance; the co-ordination of complaints and requests for review; liaison with external agencies, such as Criminal Justice Inspection; the development of the Service’s equality and governance frameworks; and the management of requests under the Freedom of Information Act/ Data Protection Act.
The Unit comprises a mix of legal and other specialists and is headed by Dr Richard Scullion. The complement includes a number of statisticians seconded from the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency who are responsible for the production of statistical publications in line with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.
In August 2019, the Strategic Improvement Team was also established under the Corporate Services umbrella. The new team has responsibility for the PPS’s input to a number of ongoing and future CJSNI ‘Speeding up Justice’ initiatives, including committal reform.