A follow-up review of the Public Prosecution Service response to strategic inspection recommendations made between 2013 and 2015

Publication: 21/02/18
Prosecution Service delivers improvements in governance arrangements and business performance

Independent Inspectors have found the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS) has fully implemented two thirds of strategic recommendations aimed at improving its performance and corporate governance during the past five years.

The review published today 21 February 2018 by Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) revealed four recommendations had been fully achieved with a further two assessed as partially achieved.
 
“I welcome the progress made by the PPS to strengthen its governance arrangements and the steps taken to date to improve its organisational and business performance,” said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
 
“Since the PPS was established and CJI’s initial corporate governance inspection completed, the PPS has faced cuts in its budget and a drop in the number of less complex summary cases it receives, while the volume of serious cases received has been sustained,” he said.
 
In response Inspectors found the PPS had undertaken a significant transformation programme that had restructured the organisation and reduced its staffing levels by over 80 people through a voluntary exit scheme.
 
 “The PPS has taken steps to generate significant savings while implementing better performance management within the organisation through the collection and analysis of information around key areas such as compliance with the Prosecutor’s Code; achievement of timeliness targets; and decision standards,” said Mr McGuigan.
 
“The organisation has also taken steps to benchmark its performance at court against that of the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) in England and Wales.  This work revealed the PPS exceeded the CPS conviction rates achieved at Crown Court level (PPS: 86%; CPS: 80%) but achieved seven per cent less than its counterpart within the Magistrates’ Court setting (CPS: 86%; PPS: 79%).”
 
Mr McGuigan said he also welcomed the creation of a Serious Crime Unit within the PPS in January 2016 which concentrated experience and expertise in serious cases, such as those of child sexual abuse and exploitation, within a centralised unit.
 
“Specific training for staff working in this unit has raised awareness of the issues associated with child sexual exploitation, sexual offences against children as well as the need to support vulnerable witnesses.
 
“While Inspectors accept progress in this area has been significant and conviction rates for rape and other sexual offences have increased, there is still more work to be done to engage with victims, manage the expectations of different groups of victims or vulnerable witnesses, particularly children, and to understand why victims and witnesses withdraw from the prosecution process.”
 
In conclusion Mr McGuigan said: “I welcome the progress that has been made in response to the original recommendations but remain acutely aware of the need for the PPS to constantly review and improve its performance in these uncertain times.”