Court Prosecutions, Convictions and Out of Court Disposals Statistics for Northern Ireland, 2020 published

Date published: 23 June 2021

The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published the Research and Statistical Bulletin ‘Court Prosecutions, Convictions and Out of Court Disposals Statistics for Northern Ireland, 2020’. It is an Official Statistics Publication.

statistic image

This bulletin presents data on prosecutions and convictions by Court Type; gender and age; and disposal and offence category.  Similar disaggregation has been applied in relation to out of court disposals data. 


In general, the overall picture is that the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has caused a significant drop in the number of cases dealt with at courts since 2019. In contrast the number of out of court disposals increased from 2019, due to Covid-19 offences being dealt with by way of penalty notice. 


  • The number of prosecutions disposed at Crown Court in 2020 was 1,163, a 24.2% decrease from 1,534 in 2019. The number of prosecutions at magistrates’ courts fell 28.2% from 27,967 in 2019 to 20,092 in 2020.
  • In 2020, 85.3% (18,135) of prosecutions in all courts resulted in a conviction, up from, 84.8% (25,011) in 2019. 
  • The majority, 82.3% (17,494), of prosecutions completed at all courts in 2020 were cases where the defendant was male (Crown Court, 88.7% (1,031) and magistrates’ courts, 81.9% (16,463)).
  • At all courts, persons in the 18 to 29 age range made up 39.7% (8,437) of prosecutions and 40.2% (7,287) of those convicted in 2020, with defendants aged 18 to 24 making up 21.3% (4,537) of cases prosecuted and 21.6% (3,917) of cases resulting in conviction. At all courts, cases where the defendant was aged 25 to 29 made up 18.3% (3,900) of cases prosecuted and 18.6% (3,370) of cases resulting in conviction.
  • Of all offence categories, motoring offences made up the largest proportion of prosecutions at all courts: 8,821 (41.5% of all prosecutions) in 2020.  Of all offence categories, drugs offences had the highest conviction rate at all courts, at 93.4% (1,972). 
  • Monetary penalties were the most frequently utilised disposal at all courts in 2020, with 53.6% (9,725) of all convictions having this type of disposal as their primary outcome. While a custodial outcome was imposed in 14.1% (2,561) of cases that resulted in conviction at all courts in 2020, for Crown Court, a custodial disposal was imposed in 48.9% (511) of cases.


  • A total of 4,502 Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) were issued in 2020.  PNDs were issued for offences under Covid-19 Regulations in 3,661 (81.3%) cases.  
  • Most PNDs, 68.4% (3,080), were issued to males.  Persons in the 18 – 24 age group received 59.4% (2,672) of all PNDs issued. Offences in the Miscellaneous Crimes against Society and Public Order categories constituted the largest proportion of PNDs issued, with 87.4% (3,935) and 7.7% (347) respectively of all PNDs issued for offences in these categories. 
  • The number of out of court, diversionary disposals recorded against individuals’ criminal records in 2020 was 3,232, a fall of 22.5% from 4,171 in 2019.  Most diversionary disposals were dealt with by way of caution, with 75.4% (2,437) of all diversionary disposals dealt with in this way. 
  • Of all those who received a diversionary disposal in 2020, most were in the younger age categories, with 53.8% (1,738) of all diversionary disposals handed out to the under 25 year old age group.
  • In 2020, 74.2% (2,398) of all diversionary disposals were handed down to males.  
  • Of all diversionary disposals, 26.9% (870) were handed down for drug offences and a further 24.0% (776) were for violence against the person offences.

Notes to editors: 

1.  This bulletin presents prosecutions and convictions data for the year 2020 for all courts, magistrates’ courts and the Crown Court, which are disaggregated by age and gender of defendant, as well as details of out of court disposals completed during 2020. Data for the youth court, a special magistrates’ court which deals with proceedings against juveniles between the ages of 10 and 17, are included with those for the magistrates’ courts. The statistical coverage is restricted to those criminal prosecutions brought to court by the Public Prosecution Service on behalf of the PSNI, the National Crime Agency, the Airport Constabulary or Harbour Police in Northern Ireland and breaches of community sentences brought by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI). Prosecutions brought by government departments, public bodies and private individuals are not included.

2.  The data used in this bulletin were taken from the Causeway Data Sharing Mechanism (DSM1). They were extracted primarily based on records contained on the Criminal Records Viewer (CRV). The CRV is held on Causeway and utilises data which originated in the PSNI, PPS and from Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service. Causeway is an interconnected information system, launched as a joint undertaking by the Criminal Justice Organisations (CJOs) in Northern Ireland.

3.  Historically, prior to 2006, data came from the PSNI’s Integrated Crime Information System (ICIS) and, prior to 2000, from manual returns collected at court and included information on prosecutions as well as convictions.  For the period from 2006 – 2009, data were taken from the Criminal Records Viewer (CRV) which contains only data on convictions, so it was not possible to compile information on prosecutions for the period 2007 – 2009. From 2009 onwards, data have been sourced from the Causeway Data Sharing Mechanism (DSM1) and include prosecutions, convictions and out of court disposals. It is envisaged that the next publication in this series, containing data for 2021, will be available in early summer 2022.   

4.  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. 

5.  Furthern information on this bulletin is available at the Statistics and Research section of this website or via Analytical Services Group, Financial Services Division, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SG


6.  Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DoJ Press Office via email to

Share this page

Back to top