On Wednesday 29th November 2023, the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) began a pilot project which sees police no longer required to submit all investigation files to the PPS.
Under the previous operating model, police investigators had to submit all files to the PPS where an offence was suspected to have taken place, where there was an identifiable suspect and where there was any evidence, however weak, to link the suspect to the crime.
This included files where there was a police recommendation for ‘no prosecution’ because, in the view of the Investigating Officer, the evidential Test for Prosecution could not be met.
Under the current model being piloted, however, police are no longer required to submit certain files where a recommendation not to prosecute is made for each of the suspects in the case.
Police are now authorised to take a ‘No File Decision’ (NFD) in cases involving certain offences, and where it is appropriate to take no further action.
The offences covered by the change are those known as 'case weight' categories 5-8 and include offences ranging from assault to less serious motoring offences.
Under the pilot, the PPS is continuing to take decisions in the more serious files where police have recommended no prosecution. These are cases within the higher case weight categories of 1- 4, and include offences such as murder, manslaughter, possessing firearms or explosives, rape, sexual assaults, grievous bodily harm and non-fatal strangulation.
The pilot is the result of detailed work between the PSNI and the PPS, with oversight from the Criminal Justice Board, and will run for one year. It will be evaluated at various stages throughout the year and key stakeholders, such as victims’ organisations, have been briefed. They are also being asked to assist with evaluation measures.
The pilot was initiated to address a shared recognition that a new, more proportionate approach is needed to deliver some services, particularly in the context of the long-term financial and resourcing pressures on both organisations.
It also brings Northern Ireland into line with working arrangements in England and Wales where police already have the authority to issue the equivalent of a No File Decision for all offence types.
Where the PPS continues to take decisions on files, prosecutions are initiated or continued only where it is satisfied that the Test for Prosecution is met. You can visit the How We Reach Decisions page for further information on the Test for Prosecution.