Nigel Dodds: Troubling verdict on Public Prosecution Service
The Attorney General's report published yesterday does not give the Public Prosecution Service a clean bill of health - rather quite the opposite. This latest report will be very difficult reading for the Director of Public Prosecutions.
This is the second report in as many weeks which has been critical of how the PPS has handled cases involving sexual abuse. Only two weeks ago, Sir Keir Starmer's review found how victims were let down by PPS through unnecessary delays, failure to follow up leads and through improper communication with those who were already in a vulnerable state.
Indeed, paragraph 7.6 of the Attorney General's review raises the question as to why a key witness was not re-interviewed to clarify evidence. Paragraph 7.7 states "the PPS decision that the evidential sub-test was not met was perhaps premature".
Paragraph 7.8 points to the PPS breaching the Code for Prosecutors.
Meanwhile, and very alarmingly, the Attorney General in Paragraph 7.10 states: "The papers furnished to me do not disclose why the PPS concluded that a prosecution of Gerry Adams would not be in the public interest."
My colleague and Chairman of the Assembly's Justice Committee Alastair Ross has invited the Director of Public Prosecutions to his committee tomorrow, where the DPP will be pressed for further answers. These failures must be addressed with open and transparent explanations.
According to the Public Prosecution Service's website, its vision is: "To be recognised as providing a first class prosecution service for the people of Northern Ireland"
And its aim is: "To provide the people of Northern Ireland with an independent, fair and effective prosecution service."
Undoubtedly, both the Starmer report and the Attorney General's report have exposed flaws, thus damaging the public's confidence in our Public Prosecution Service.
Swift remedial action must be taken by the Justice Minister, the Assembly and the PPS to demonstrate that our justice system is independent, fair and effective.
Sadly, these two reports have highlighted that our PPS is not 'first class'. That must change.
- Nigel Dodds is the DUP MP for North Belfast