Select Committee on Northern Ireland Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Director of Public Prosecutions Northern Ireland

  I understand that the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee is carrying out an inquiry into the operation of the Parades Commission with the following terms of reference:-

    "To examine the operation of the Parades Commission since its inception and to consider, within the existing framework of law and structures and in the light of the Northern Ireland Office's review of the Commission, how its effectiveness might be enhanced".

  You write that the Committee is particularly interested in policy in relation to prosecution of offenders under sections 8(7) and 8(8) of the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1988. The Committee asks for a short memorandum setting out the prosecution policy in relation to offences in general under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998, and, in particular, the offences under section 8 of the Act relating to failure to comply with the conditions imposed on public processions by the Parades Commission; and, statistics for each year since the Commission came into existence, for each category of offence under the Act, of the number of cases referred to the DPP for possible prosecution; the number of cases prosecuted; and the number of convictions obtained.

  In Northern Ireland, prosecutions are initiated or continued by the Director where he is satisfied that the evidence which can be adduced in court is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction; and, prosecution is required in the public interest. This is the "Test for Prosecution".

  A reasonable prospect of conviction exists if in relation to an identifiable individual, there is credible evidence which the prosecution can adduce before a court upon which evidence an impartial jury (or other tribunal), properly directed in accordance with the law, may reasonably be expected to find proved beyond reasonable doubt the commission of a criminal offence by the individual who has been prosecuted.

  Broadly, the presumption that applies is that the public interest requires prosecution where there has been a contravention of the criminal law. This presumption provides the starting point, but only the starting point, for consideration of each individual case. In some instances, the serious nature of the case will raise a very strong presumption, but there will be instances and circumstances in which, although the evidence is sufficient to provide a reasonable prospect of conviction, nonetheless prosecution is not required in the public interest.

  Arrangements are in place within this Department to ensure that decisions as to prosecution are taken at an appropriate level of seniority, under supervision. Apart from "Test for Prosecution", I have not issued additional guidance to staff in relation to offences under the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998 save in regard to issues arising from Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention of Human Rights. I attach a copy of the letter, for your information[227]. This document is based upon a Crown Prosecution Service draft and has been adapted by my staff for use in Northern Ireland. During the course of 1999 an extensive training programme for all lawyers in my office was carried out with the assistance of trainers from the Crown Prosecution Service.

  You ask for certain statistics. I have asked staff to identify the cases which we hold and to provide as complete an analysis as possible. An examination of each individual file was required.

  I refer to the attached schedule.

  In summary, during the relevant period, directions to prosecute 47 persons issued for offences contrary to the Public Processions (Northern Ireland) Act 1998. In relation to 33 of these persons the prosecution has been completed before the Magistrates' Court. Some 14 persons have not yet been tried. Directions for no prosecution issued in respect of 152 persons. The evidential "Test for Prosecution" was not met in respect of 109 of these persons. The public interest did not require prosecution of 24 of these persons. Proceedings had become statute barred in relation to 19 of these persons.

  Finally, may I refer to the following correspondence, a copy of which I attach*:-

  (1)  A letter received from the Parades Commission dated 17 February 1999.

  (2)  An interim response dated 18 February 1999.

  (3)  A substantive reply dated 9 March 1999.

  While you have not asked for correspondence passing between the Parades Commission and this Department, having regard to your terms of reference, and the enquiries which you raise, I think it proper to furnish you with these papers.

  As I indicated in my letter dated 14 March, I have taken the opportunity of discussing your letter with the Attorney General, who has also seen this response.



  1.  Number of persons against whom a direction to prosecute issued: 47.

  2.  Analysis of offences in respect of these 47 persons:

—  Section 6(7)(a)
—  Section 7(6)(a): 4
—  Section 8(7): 2
—  Section 14(1)(a): 5

  3.  Outcome of Prosecutions:

—  Convictions
: 24
—  Acquittals: 9
—  Not yet tried: 14

  4.  Analysis of directions to prosecute in terms of years:

—  1998
: 11
—  1999:22
—  2000:4
—  2001:10

  5.  Analysis of offences directed in terms of years:

—  1998 Section 6(7)(a)
—  1999 Section 6(7)(a): 16
         Section 8(7): 1
         Section 14(1)(a): 5
—  2000 Section 6(7)(a): 4
—  2001 Section 6(7)(a): 5
         Section 7(6)(a): 4
         Section 8(7): 1

  6. Analysis of 24 convictions in terms of penalties imposed:

—  Fine
: 12
—  Bound over: 8
—  Conditional Discharge: 2
—  Suspended Sentence: 2

  7.  Number of persons against whom a direction for no prosecution issued: 152.

  8.  Analysis of offences considered in respect of these 152 persons:

—  Section 6(7)(a)
—  Section 6(7)(b): 2
—  Section 7(6)(a): 3
—  Section 8(7): 69

  9.  Analysis of directions for no prosecution in terms of years:

—  1998
: 21
—  1999:60
—  2000:45
—  2001:26

  10.  Analysis of offences considered where no prosecution was directed in terms of years:

—  1998 Section 6(7)(a)
—  1999 Section 6(7)(a): 17
         Section 6(7)(b): 2
         Section 8(7): 41
—  2000 Section 6(7)(a): 37
         Section 7(6)(a): 1
         Section 8(7): 7
—  2001 Section 6(7)(a): 3
         Section 7(6)(a): 2
         Section 8(7): 21

  11.  Of the 152 persons in respect of whom a direction for no prosecution issued, the following is an analysis of the basis of the decision:

    (i)  The evidence was insufficient to prosecute 109 persons.

    (i)  The public interest did not require prosecution of 24 persons.

    (iii)  Proceedings had become statute-barred in relation to 19 persons.

22 March 2001

227   Evidence not reported. Back

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