The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published the Research and Statistical Bulletin ‘Court Prosecutions, Convictions and Out of Court Disposals Statistics for Northern Ireland, 2021’. It is an Official Statistics Publication.
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 number of cases dealt with at courts in 2021 recovered to their pre-pandemic levels. In contrast, the number of out of court disposals increased from 2020, due to Covid-19 offences being dealt with by way of penalty notice.
PROSECUTIONS AND CONVICTIONS
- The number of prosecutions disposed at Crown Court in 2021 was 1,598, a 37.4% increase from 2020. Prosecutions at magistrates’ courts rose by 40.7% during the same period (2020, 20,092; 2021, 28,269).
- In 2021, 83.1% (24,818) of prosecutions in all courts resulted in a conviction, down from 85.3% in 2020.
- Males accounted for the majority of prosecutions in all courts (82.6%).
- Defendants aged 18 to 39 accounted for the majority of prosecutions (69.4%) and convictions (70.4%). Those in the youngest (prosecutions, 2.3%; convictions, 2.1%) and oldest age groups (prosecutions, 3.9%; convictions, 3.7%) accounted for the lowest.
- Motoring offences made up the largest proportion of prosecutions (42.4%, 12,652) at all courts and drug offences had the highest conviction rate (94.0%, 2,666).
OUT OF COURT DISPOSALS
- A total of 5,662 Penalty Notices for Disorder (PNDs) were issued in 2021; 4,850 (85.7%) were for offences under Covid-19 Regulations.
- Of all PNDs issued in 2021, 61.4% were to males and 50.7% to 18 to 24 year olds.
- PNDs were issued mainly for offences in the miscellaneous crimes category (90.5%, 5,125).
- The number of out of court, diversionary disposals recorded against individuals’ criminal records in 2021 was 3,898, a rise of 20.6% from 2020. Cautions made up 74.0% of them.
- Most diversionary disposals were issued to males (74.9%) and under 25 year olds (52.8%).
- Violence against the person and drug offences accounted for 26.4% and 24.4% of diversionary disposals respectively.
Notes to editors:
1. This bulletin presents prosecutions and convictions data for the year 2021 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 2021. 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 2022, will be available in early summer 2023.
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. The bulletin will be available in PDF format from either the publication section of this website or Analytical Services Group, Financial Services Division, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast BT4 3SG, Email
6. Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DoJ Press Office via email
 Figures for Fixed Penalty Notices issued under Health Protection Regulations brought in as a response to the pandemic have been included with figures for PNDs.