Three alleged NI sex offenders who had cases rescinded to be prosecuted again
PPS reviews 15 convictions which were rescinded due to error in drafting updated legislation
The offences, which took place between 1973 and 2009, involved 17 victims, 11 of whom were children at the time.
The North’s Public Prosecution Service (PPS) has completed a review of sex offence cases in Northern Ireland where 15 people had their convictions rescinded due to an error in drafting updated legislation.
The PPS on Thursday reported that three of the 15 now will be prosecuted at Crown Court level but that cases will not be taken against the other 12.
The error arose because the alleged offenders were prosecuted at the lower Magistrates’ Court level when the cases should have been heard by the higher Crown Court.
The offences, which took place between 1973 and 2009, involved 17 victims, 11 of whom were children at the time. They included 15 convictions for indecent assault and two for unlawful carnal knowledge.
In September, the PPS reported how prosecutors became aware of a change in the law in 2009 which had unintentionally removed certain types of sexual offences from the list of cases that could be prosecuted in the Magistrates’ Court.
It has now completed its review of the cases and decided that three cases are to be prosecuted in the Crown Court.
“On completion of this process, it has been concluded that of the 15 cases, there are three in which the test for prosecution is met and in respect of which proceedings will now be brought in the Crown Court,” the PPS said in a statement on Thursday afternoon.
“There are 12 in which the test for prosecution is no longer met and in which, therefore, no fresh proceedings will be brought,” it added.
In September the PPS reported how one of the offenders was jailed and the others were handed suspended prison sentences. The PPS said it had concluded that the convictions were not valid and would be rescinded.
One of the offenders who was still on the Sex Offenders’ Register was to have the name removed.
On Thursday, the PPS assistant director, Ciaran McQuillan said he was “extremely grateful” to the victims he spoke to for their “positive engagement” with the review which he conducted.
He said he had written to all defendants and victims involved to inform them of his decision.
The PPS in its statement said the decisions not to prosecute 12 people were taken on public interest grounds. It said each case was considered on its individual merits.
It added that some of the relevant considerations included the fact of the previous proceedings and outcomes; “the nature and gravity of the particular offending; the time that had passed since the date of the offending; and the time that had passed since the original proceedings”.
Mr McQuillan said that during the victim engagement process a number of people indicated they did not wish to see a fresh prosecution while others were supportive of new proceedings.
“I recognise fully the deep disappointment felt by those who did wish to proceed again and who were told today that this will not happen. I want to assure all victims, and the wider public, that each decision was taken only after the most careful consideration of all the factors relevant to each of the cases.”
Mr McQuillan said the PPS recognised that the process “was distressing for those involved”. He said the PPS was committed to “robustly prosecute sexual offences where the test for prosecution is met”.
“We work to ensure that victims are treated with sensitivity and respect at every stage of the process,” he added. We recognise the bravery of all victims of sexual offences and we would encourage them to continue to come forward to report their experience to police.”