PPS received 600 rape files in past year
The Public Prosecution Service (PPS) in Northern Ireland received 600 files for suspected rape offences in the past year.
The PPS has published a statistical bulletin of cases which revealed that in the 2021/22 financial year the prosecution and conviction rates for sexual offences increased.
Ciaran McQuillan, head of the PPS Serious Crime Unit, said the findings showed “gradual improvement” but added much work was still needed across the criminal justice system to tackle sexual abuse and violence.
During the 2021/22 financial year:
– The PPS received a total of 1,509 files involving a sexual offence. This was a decrease of 3.8% on 2020/21 (1,568).
– There was an increase of 3.8% in the number of files received involving an offence of rape, from 578 to 600.
– Files received included a total of 1,573 suspects, 622 of whom were charged or reported for rape (an increase of 2.3% on 2020/21) and 951 were in respect of other sexual offences (a decrease of 9.9%).
– 1,540 prosecutorial decisions were issued by the PPS in respect of suspects in cases involving sexual offences. The test for prosecution was met in respect of 35.5% of decisions.
– Of the 994 no prosecution decisions issued during 2021/22, the vast majority (98.3%) did not pass the evidential test. The remaining 1.7% did not pass the public interest test.
– The number of suspects prosecuted for rape increased from 76 to 103 and for all sexual offences the numbers also went up from 416 in 2020/21 to 486 in 2021/22.
– A total of 256 defendants were dealt with in the Crown Court in cases involving sexual offences. The overall conviction rate was 72.7%, compared with 71.3% in 2020/21.
– Seventy-two defendants were dealt with in the Crown Court for an offence of rape.
– A total of 190 defendants were dealt with in the Magistrates’ and Youth Courts for a sexual offence during 2021/22. The overall conviction rate was 73.2% compared with 68.0% in 2020/21.
Mr McQuillan, said: “Sexual offences are abhorrent crimes that have a lasting impact on victims and their families, and cause significant harm in wider society.
“These offences also present complex and deep-seated challenges for the entire criminal justice system.”
He added: “While we recognise that there is much work still to be done across the system – particularly in respect of delay despite the improvements this year in the time taken to issue decisions – we are encouraged to see signs of gradual and sustained improvements in this bulletin.
“There needs to be a continual focus by the whole criminal justice system and wider society to tackle sexual abuse and violence in all its forms.
“While anyone – regardless of characteristics including age, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or disability – can be the victim of a sexual offence, we know that women and girls are disproportionately affected.
“It is important that every victim of a sexual offence feels confident to speak out.
“In the PPS we understand that many victims of sexual offences may feel worried about reporting their experiences and going through the criminal justice system.
“We want to assure them that the team of specialist prosecutors in the PPS Serious Crime Unit are highly trained and experienced in dealing with these cases. They approach the decision-making needed with sensitivity, fairness and care.
“We work with police to ensure that victims are listened to and always treated with respect.”