DPP reports increase of more than one-third in domestic violence case files
Posted on 21st November 2022 at 23:10
The number of domestic violence files sent by gardaí to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) rose by more than one-third last year, according to the DPP’s latest report.
The report, the first by DPP Catherine Pierse since her appointment a year ago, reveals the number of files overall rose by an “unprecedented” 23 per cent in the three years up to November 2021 and the number of domestic violence files continued to rise sharply, up 36 per cent on the 2020 figure.
A high conviction rate of 94 per cent was reported for cases of serious crime finalised by the Central Criminal Court in 2020, the most recent year for which figures are available. There were 218 cases prosecuted on indictment and 42 cases were finalised or otherwise disposed of, including 20 rape cases. The figures exclude cases not yet heard, struck out or discontinued.
Eight cases were finalised in the non-jury Special Criminal Court where the conviction rate, including convictions on a lesser charge, was 100 per cent.
Of 2,431 cases finalised in the Circuit Criminal Court in 2020, the highest number, 911, concerned offences against property, 511 involved non-fatal offences against the person and 501 concerned drug offences. 133 cases related to sexual offences, including 42 for sexual assault and 52 for child pornography. The average rate of conviction across all offences in that court was 98 per cent.
The overall number of District Court prosecutions dealt with rose to 1,752 cases during 2021, a 40 per cent increase on the 2019 figure, the report discloses. The report says 72 per cent of decisions on whether or not to prosecute are made within four weeks of receiving a completed prosecution file.
No prosecutions, for reasons including insufficient evidence and withdrawal of complaints, were directed in relation to 5,508 of the overall 18,256 files received by the office in 2021.
It cost almost €44.5 million to run the DPP’s office in 2021, including some €17.1 million for barristers’ fees and €7.7 million for the State solicitor service. The office recovered €6.5 million for public funds as a result of proceeds of crime prosecutions.
In her foreword to the report, the DPP said the criminal justice system continues to grapple with backlogs of cases developed during the Covid-19 pandemic. She was “acutely conscious that delays associated with those backlogs are having a significant impact on victims, witnesses and accused persons who are awaiting trials, or where trials have to be adjourned”.
Efforts to address the backlogs are ongoing and the assignment of additional judges to the Central Criminal Court last year had “greatly assisted in alleviating delays for rape and murder prosecutions”, she said.
She described as “unprecedented” the growth in the number of files being referred to the office, with a 23 per cent rise in the total files received in the three years up to this reporting period. This situation continued during 2021 with a 7 per cent increase on the previous year, she said.
She noted the sharp rise in the number of domestic violence files and said the service in the prosecution of domestic violence cases before the District Courts in Dublin has been expanded.
A Sexual Offence Unit was opened in the DPP’s office in April 2021 with a view to managing all sexual offence prosecutions from beginning to end, and has taken on the existing sexual offence workload from the Central Criminal Court and Dublin Circuit Court, the director outlined.
There was, she noted, an “increased complexity in many cases arising from the growing volume of digital material and the number of international cross-border issues involved”.
She was “very pleased” to have obtained “a significant increase” in the office’s budget for 2023 and said additional staff are being recruited to deal with the increased volume and complexity of work and to help implement strategic goals.
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