DPP ordered 44% of cases not to be prosecuted
Percentage of suspects not making it to court in 2014 represented 5,177 individuals
DPP Claire Loftus: says the cost of barristers’ fees to her office is being pushed up by white-collar prosecutions.
The Director of Public Prosecutions ordered that 44 per cent of suspects, whose cases were submitted to its office for a decision on prosecution in 2014, should not be prosecuted, new figures show. Last year, 44 per cent of case files from the Garda and other State agencies submitted to the office for direction did not make it to court, representing 5,177 suspects. That proportion has been rising every year since 2008, when just 35 per cent of individuals were not prosecuted.
A total of 14,023 case files on potential criminal prosecutions were received last year, according to the DPP annual report. Of those processed, 3,384 suspects were directed to the district court while 3,111 had their cases dealt with by indictment in a higher court. Of the cases that the DPP did not consider to warrant prosecution, the 80 per cent were due to a perceived lack of evidence.
More minor offences, like shoplifting or traffic violations, do not require a file to be prepared.
The DPP declined to comment on why the rate has risen steadily since 2008.
Legal sources were in agreement that reasons are entirely speculative. One source, requesting anonymity, told The Irish Times that the only logical conclusions could be a decline in the quality of Garda evidence-gathering or, alternatively, an increase in the standard applied to each decision by the DPP as a reflection of rulings handed down within the judicial system.
A Garda source said there were a myriad of reasons why a suspect may not be prosecuted and that gardaí were duty bound to investigate every complaint, even where they may lack substance.
Speaking more generally, Dara Robinson, partner at Sheehan & Partners, specialising in criminal law, said: “[Garda] intelligence doesn’t always translate into evidence.” A prosecution will only be granted where it is all but certain there is enough evidence to persuade a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.
“The DPP is capable of making a very cold forensic judgment in a case where the guards might be anxious for a prosecution,” Mr Robinson added. “The DPP will base its decision on purely evidential considerations.”
Meanwhile, writing in the report, the director Claire Loftus said the cost of barristers’ fees to her office was being pushed up by white-collar prosecutions.
Expenditure on legal fees rose from €13 million to €13.4 million last year, mainly due to lengthy trials, some relating to fraud and other white-collar crime. “This trend is set to continue in the coming years relating to matters currently before the courts,” Ms Loftus wrote.