The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has called on all areas of the criminal-justice system to collaborate to address delays.
Catherine Pierse also warned that an increase in the number of judges must be accompanied by increased capacity in other areas of the justice system – including the DPP’s office.
Writing in the foreword to her office’s annual report for 2022, she described the level of activity across the criminal-justice system during the year as “enormous”, due to the backlogs caused by COVID-19 restrictions, along with a general increase in case numbers.
“Over the past three years, the number of judges in the Central Criminal Court has increased from four to nine, resulting in a significant increase in the level of activity in this court,” the DPP wrote.
Sittings outside Dublin
The report shows that the office supported more than 1,500 trial days in the court in 2022, with 190 trials resolved during the year.
“The Central Criminal Court has also increasingly sat outside of Dublin and, although this presents challenges, my office has consistently facilitated the efforts to address backlogs by utilising court venues outside of the capital,” she added.
Referring to delays in the system, the DPP warned that they could undermine public trust and confidence, and had a particular impact on victims, accused persons and witnesses.
“In the prosecution service we see first-hand the deep distress of victims when a case is listed to go ahead and then is adjourned at the last minute,” she wrote.
Staff numbers to rise
The annual report said that there were 234 staff working at the DPP’s office at the end of 2002, but that this would rise above 300 this year after a 13% increase in its budget allocation.
During the year, the office received 17,359 files, with more than 11,000 of these linked to serious offences that required a decision from its lawyers.
A prosecution was directed for almost two-thirds of suspects who were the subject of files received.
The office received 248 requests from victims for reviews of decisions not to prosecute, overturning the decision in nine cases.
Around 75% of cases requiring a decision on whether to prosecute were dealt with within a four-week period. The DPP’s office said that this was consistent with previous years.
The DPP’s office was successful in just over 80% of cases where it asked for a review of a sentence on the grounds of undue leniency.