Rise in DPP appeals against leniency of prison terms
56 sentences, a record number, appealed in 2016
Victims of sexual offences formed the largest category (38 per cent) of people seeking reasons for non-prosecution
The State is increasingly willing to take appeals against the leniency of certain prison sentences, newly released figures show.
Since 1993 it has been open to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to appeal a sentence if it believes it to be too light based on the facts outlined in court.
Last year the DPP appealed a record 56 sentences to the Court of Appeal on the basis of undue leniency. In 2015 it appealed 38 sentences while in 2014 it appealed just 31.
However, the success rate of such appeals declined dramatically in 2016. The Court of Appeal decided to raise the prison sentence in 45 per cent of cases, down from 70 per cent in 2015 and 63 per cent in 2014.
The figures are contained in the DPP’s annual report for 2016 which states the office handled 13,180 criminal files last year. It directed that 59 per cent of the cases sent to it by gardaí be prosecuted, a figure roughly in line with previous years.
The DPP handles prosecutions of criminal offences in the Circuit and Central Criminal Courts. Cases in the District Court are usually prosecuted by gardaí on DPP advice.
A regional breakdown contained in the report shows that the DPP recorded a 100 per cent conviction rate in two counties, Monaghan and Longford, in 2015, the latest year for which conviction data is available.
During 2015 there wasn’t a single Circuit Court trial in Longford; each of the 15 defendants pleaded guilty. There hasn’t been a Circuit Court trial in Monaghan in three years.
The conviction rate was lowest in Waterford (79 per cent) where 15 of the 73 cases ended in acquittal by a jury in 2015.
The DPP secured convictions in all 11 murder prosecutions in 2015, although five of these were convictions on a lesser charge, such as manslaughter or assault.
It handled 60 rape prosecutions in 2015 with an 83 per cent conviction rate, up from 78 per cent the previous year.
Since 2015 the DPP has been obliged to tell victims, if asked, why it has refused to prosecute a case. During the last two years it has given reasons in 977 cases. Victims of sexual offences formed the largest category (38 per cent) of people seeking reasons for non-prosecution, according to the report.
Victims also have a right to request the DPP review its decision not to prosecute a case. There has been 352 reviews since 2015 with the office overturning its original decision not to prosecution in eight cases.