The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published a Research and Statistical Bulletin on ‘Case Processing Time for Criminal Cases dealt with at Courts in Northern Ireland 2020/21’. It is an Official Statistics Publication.
This bulletin presents data on the average Case Processing Time for Criminal Cases dealt with in the Crown and magistrates’ courts in Northern Ireland for the year 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021 and refers to the time from which the offence was reported to, or detected by, the police.
Prior to the pandemic, the time taken for cases to be completed had been showing a general improvement. The pandemic however, has impacted on both the levels of court business which could be conducted and on other parts of the justice system, including on the issue of summons. This has meant that, for a large part of 2020/21, cases were not able to proceed through the system at a rate they might otherwise have done.
- In 2020/21, average time taken for a case to be dealt with, at all courts, was 193 days, an increase of 29.5% from the previous year (149 days) and the highest figure recorded in the last five years.
Crown Court cases
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a charge case to be dealt with at Crown Court was 470 days, an increase of 14.6% from 2019/20 (410 days).
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a summons case to be dealt with at Crown Court was 939 days, an increase of 9.1% from 2019/20 ( 861 days).
Adult Magistrates’ Courts
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a charge case to be dealt with at adult magistrates’ courts, was 122 days, an increase of 69.4% from the previous year (72 days).
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a summons case to be dealt with at adult magistrates’ courts, was 212 days, an increase of 19.1% from 178 days in 2019/20.
Youth Magistrates’ Courts
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a charge case to be dealt with at youth magistrates’ courts, was 187 days, an increase of 59.8% from 2019/20 (117 days).
- In 2020/21, the average time taken for a summons case to be dealt with at youth magistrates’ courts, was 326 days, an increase of 34.7% from the 242 days taken in 2019/20.
Processing times by Offence Category
- In 2020/21, the average time taken to complete cases where the main offence was a motoring one was 153 days. The comparative figure for sexual offences was 581 days.
Notes to editors:
This bulletin presents data on the average Case Processing Time for Criminal Cases dealt with in the Crown and magistrates’ courts in Northern Ireland for the year 1 April 2020 – 31 March 2021. The intention of the publication is to show the impact on performance over time of key ‘speeding up justice’ initiatives put in place through law reform and through administrative and practice improvements. It aims to provide an overview of the time taken for a case to be disposed at court from the date that case began its journey through the criminal justice system, based on a start point of the date the offence was reported to, or detected by, the PSNI. Analysis is also provided in relation to case type, i.e., whether it was a charge or summons case, and in relation to the type of court in which the case was disposed, i.e., Crown Court, adult magistrates’ courts or youth magistrates’ courts. Findings for the 2020/21 year have been compared with those for cases disposed in the previous four years.
The data used in this bulletin were taken from the Causeway Data Sharing Mechanism (DSM1). Causeway is an interconnected information system, launched as a joint undertaking by the Criminal Justice Organisations (CJOs) in Northern Ireland.
The figures reported in this bulletin, relate to cases disposed at court in the year specified, where the case was prosecuted by the Public Prosecution Service on behalf of PSNI, Harbour Police, Airport Constabulary or the National Crime Agency. Cases disposed of through an out of court disposal, or which do not reach the end of the full court process, do not go through the standard stages of the court system and, as such, are not directly comparable with cases that have gone through the judicial system. Similarly, cases relating to breaches of court orders previously imposed are not included in the dataset, as they relate to a previous offence and have not proceeded through the various stages in the criminal justice process in the same way that cases relating to other offences may have. They have therefore not been included in the figures reported.
Official Statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs and are produced free from any political interference. They are also subject to restrictions in terms of pre-release access.
The bulletin will be available in PDF format from Statistics and Research section of this website or alternatively by contacting Analytical Services Group, Financial Services Division, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SG
Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DoJ Press Office on telephone number 028 9052 6444.
 Average is measured as the median number of days taken, i.e., the number of days at which 50% of those cases included under counting rules has been completed.