Files sent to DPP alleging sexual offences ‘continue to grow’

During 2019 number of such files up by 12%, according to Director of Public Prosecutions

During last year 36% of the decisions made by the DPP were to not prosecute. File photograph: The Irish Times

During last year 36% of the decisions made by the DPP were to not prosecute. File photograph: The Irish Times

 

The number of files involving alleged sexual offences being sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) continues to grow, the director, Claire Loftus, has said.

During 2019 there was a 12 per cent increase in the number of such files being submitted, she said.

The DPP is the agency that decides whether a case should go forward for prosecution, and to which court.

In the year to date the office has continued to see “a significant rise in sexual offence files” being submitted.

The growing number of files in this area meant that the dedicated Sexual Offences Unit that is being established within the DPP is more necessary than ever, she said.

“When it is fully established, it is planned that all sexual offences prosecuted in the Central Criminal Court, and almost all categories of sexual offences in the Dublin Circuit Court, will be managed from beginning to end within this new unit.”

It is envisaged that the new unit will be in place by the end of this year, she said in her forward to the 2019 annual report.

The number of files in relation to all types of crime received by the DPP increased by more than 8 per cent during 2019 (to 15,590).

The total number of files submitted so far this year is up 23 per cent on 2019.

Almost half of all decisions made were made within two weeks of receiving the file (49 per cent), while in 1 per cent of decisions, the process had taken more than a year.

During last year 36 per cent of the decisions made were to not prosecute, while 32 per cent were to send the cases forward to the Circuit, Central or Special Criminal Court (trial on indictment), and 29 per cent were directed to the District Court.

In some cases the office requested further information, or investigation, before a decision could be made.

The number of requests the office received for reasons as to why a decision was made not to prosecute, as well as requests for reviews of such decisions, were at similar levels to the previous two years, Ms Loftus said.

What of new jury trials in 2020?

Sexual offences continued to be the category of case that was most often the subject of requests for reasons and/or review.

On the issue of Covid-19, Ms Loftus noted that no new jury trials commenced between mid-March and July, though guilty pleas continued in all courts, as did certain hearings in the District Court, and trials in the Special Criminal Court.

Statistics contained in the report show that last year Limerick was the county for which the most cases (1.37) were sent forward for trial on indictment, per 1,000 of population.

The next highest was Longford, at 1.34, followed by Louth at 1.11 and Dublin at 1.09. The lowest was Offaly, at 0.36.