Big rise in international criminal investigations putting pressure on DPP
Over 200 requests for assistance made to US as child pornography prosecutions rise
Director of Public Prosecutions Claire Loftus wrote in her 2017 annual report there is considerable pressure on resources in relation to the international work undertaken by her office.
A massive rise in the number of criminal investigations requiring international assistance is putting severe pressure on resources, the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) has warned.
The number of requests for “mutual legal assistance” made to other countries by Ireland doubled from 268 in 2015 to 526 in 2017.
For the first time in its annual report, the DPP revealed where these requests were sent to. In 2017 by far the largest number (203) were to the United States. Many of these requests related to prosecutions for child pornography offences uncovered by the FBI.
The DPP requested assistance from the UK 135 times and from other EU countries 133 times. There were 14 requests for help from the Canadian authorities.
Director Claire Loftus wrote in the 2017 annual report there is considerable pressure on resources in relation to the international work undertaken by her office.
This work also includes extraditing suspects from other countries for alleged crimes committed in Ireland. In 2017, 60 European Arrest Warrants (EAWs) were issued for suspects who had fled to another European country, while 30 suspects were returned to Ireland from the EU to face prosecution.
She said a lack of staff resulted in a backlog of EAW cases building up during the year. “We are reviewing as a matter of urgency the additional resources required in order to meet the growing demand.”
Ms Loftus expressed concern about the implications of Brexit for the Irish criminal justice system, particularly regarding extradition matters.
The vast majority of EAWs are sent to the UK, she said. These would stop immediately in the event of a hard Brexit next March.
“It is therefore crucial that an agreement is reached on an alternative system before that date,” Ms Loftus said. “This is particularly important having regard to the shared border with Northern Ireland, and the ongoing necessity for prosecutions in respect of dissident subversive activity.”
The DPP’s office spent €41 million in 2017, up €2.4 million from the previous year. The prosecution of the final criminal cases relating to the collapse of Anglo Irish Bank accounted for some of this rise, but most of it was due to the increased numbers of cases being taken in the Circuit and Central Criminal Courts.
The DPP considered 11,499 files for prosecution in 2017, up from 11,352. It directed no prosecution in 39 per cent of cases. In 80 per cent of these cases a lack of evidence was the main reason not to prosecute.
Of those that were prosecuted there was a 94 per cent conviction rate (90 per cent from guilty pleas and four per cent from convictions at trial), broadly similar to previous years.
The annual report also contains the latest statistics on prosecutions from 2016 including:
-46 prosecutions for child pornography offices , up from 16 in 2015,
-114 rape prosecutions, a nearly 100 per cent increase over a two year period and
- a large drop in the number of murder prosecutions, from 53 in 2014 to 20 in 2016.
There was a 90 per cent conviction rate for murder cases completed in 2016 and an 82 per cent conviction rate for completed rape cases.
The figures also show an increasing reliance on the non-jury Special Criminal Court to prosecute gangland crime. Eight murder cases were prosecuted there in 2016, compared to zero in the previous two years.