Belfast Telegraph

PPS blames resources for delays in Crown Court proceedings

Encouraged: Stephen Herron
Encouraged: Stephen Herron

By Gillian Halliday

The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) is taking almost 35 weeks to decide whether or not Crown Court cases should proceed - an increase of more than 21% compared to 2017-18.

A year ago decisions on indictable prosecutions took 201 days and, according to the PPS's annual statistical bulletin published yesterday, it has increased to an additional 43 days, bringing it to a total of 244.

The statistics also reveal that decisions on magistrate or youth court cases take 28 days - five less than in the previous financial year.

The number of defendants dealt with by Crown Courts also decreased over a 12-month period, down by 3.4% to 1,458 compared to 1,510.

The latest PPS figures also show the conviction rate in Crown Court cases has dipped slightly from 84.8% in 2017-18 to currently 84.4%.

Meanwhile, the conviction rate in magistrate and youth courts has risen slightly, from 80% to just over 81% during the same period.

PPS director Stephen Herron welcomed the high success rates, saying: "It is encouraging to see the continued robust court outcomes, which is due to the high-quality and dedicated work of our staff and our criminal justice partners."

In a separate statement, the PPS attributed the 35-week decision period to pressures on stretched resources amid increasing demands. "As this report shows, serious casework remains at a high level. It is also increasing in complexity," it said.

"The volume and type of evidential material that needs to be considered in a criminal case has changed exponentially when it comes to digital material, which is an ever-increasing feature in sexual offences, fraud and drug cases.

"This stretches finite resources right across the justice system. Together with our partners in the Criminal Justice Board we are committed to addressing avoidable delay, with the twin objectives of increasing efficiency and ensuring a fair trial."

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