Number of criminal cases processed by DPP at lowest level since 2002

Annual report shows 13,763 files were referred to office last year compared to a high of 16,144 in 2008

Wed, Jul 23, 2014, 01:00

The number of criminal cases processed by the Director of Public Prosecutions last year was at its lowest in more than 10 years.

According to the annual report of the office of the DPP, published yesterday, 13,763 files were referred to it last year, almost all of them by the Garda, down from a high of 16,144 in 2008 and lower than in any year since 2002.

In almost 60 per cent of cases in 2013 a decision was made to prosecute – either summarily in the District Court (31 per cent) or in higher courts (27 per cent) on indictment (where the case is tried before a judge and jury).

In 40 per cent of cases the DPP’s office decided not to prosecute, almost invariably (80 per cent) because in its judgment there was insufficient evidence to secure a conviction.

The office of the DPP is the State agency that directs and supervises criminal prosecutions. The office was set up on foot of the Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974, and operates wholly independent of Government.

Last year the office cost €36.1 million to run, a decrease of €2.7 million on 2012. The largest chunk (36 per cent) went on barristers’ fees. Spending on the office’s 192 staff accounted for 34 per cent of running costs. A further 17 per cent was spent by the State Solicitor’s office; 7per cent on legal costs awarded by the courts and 6 per cent on administration.

The current DPP, Claire Loftus, in office since 2011, notes in the report’s foreword that last year saw several lengthy trials, some related to white-collar crime which were “costly both in terms of counsels’ fees and staff resources”, a trend she predicted would continue.

While not specifically linking high-profile white-collar crime trials and the media, Ms Loftus also wrote: “It is absolutely critical that nothing is published or broadcast concerning events, the subject matter of charges or other matters prejudicial to the conduct of a fair trial which might constitute a contempt of court or result in a defendant successfully arguing that publicity is such that a trial should be postponed for a long period or even indefinitely.”