Belfast Telegraph

Rise in Northern Ireland rape case referrals shows victim confidence in reporting experience, say prosecutors

The PPS said the prosecution of sexual offences remained a significant and complex challenge for criminal justice agencies.
The PPS said the prosecution of sexual offences remained a significant and complex challenge for criminal justice agencies.
Claire McNeilly

By Claire McNeilly

More rape cases are being referred to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland by the police than ever before, it has emerged.

Figures contained in a new report published by the PPS on Thursday show a 70% increase in the number of rape files in the four years since 2015/16.

Head of the PPS Serious Crime Unit Ciaran McQuillan said the hike represents “a sign that victims are feeling confident in coming forward to report their distressing experiences”.

“The prosecution of sexual offences remains a significant and complex challenge for all criminal justice partners,” he said.

“While there is much more work to be done to achieve the change required across the system, it is heartening to note that many findings contained in this bulletin offer reasons to be positive.

“Looking broadly, there has been an increase in the level of cases which are able to proceed to prosecution and we can see an improved conviction rate for sexual offences at both Crown Court and Magistrates’ Court level.”

The PPS published its Statistical Bulletin: Cases Involving Sexual Offences 2018/19 which presents key statistics in relation to the prosecution of sexual offences, including rape.

The statistics relate to the full 2018/19 financial year and include caseloads, prosecutorial decisions and the outcomes of prosecutions at court involving these offences.

Among its key findings it emerged that the PPS received a total of 1,594 files involving a sexual offence - an increase of 7.6% on 2017/18 (1,482).

There was a rise of 9.7% in the number of files received involving a rape offence, from 556 to 610.

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