First Time Entrants to the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland 2020/21 published today.

Date published: 06 July 2022

The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published the Research and Statistical Bulletin ‘First Time Entrants to the Criminal Justice System in Northern Ireland 2020/21’. It is an Official Statistics Publication.


The bulletin presents information on first time entrants (or, disposals relating to first offences) to the criminal justice system disaggregated by age, gender, offence category and disposal type for 2020/21.  The key findings were as follows:


  • In 2020/21, 21,437 offences were recorded as dealt with by conviction or diversion in the justice system in Northern Ireland. Of these, 22.4% (4,799) were first offences. The comparative figure for 2019/20 was 26.8%.
  • Of first offences, 28.9% (1,389) were dealt with by formal diversionary disposal and 71.1% (3,410) by conviction.


  • Of all first time entrants in 2020/21, 7.6% (367) were aged 10 to 17 and 28.8% (1,382) were aged 18 to 24.
  • Those aged 10 to 17 were most likely (92.4%, 339 out of 367) to receive a diversion for a first offence. 71.7% (200) first time entrants aged 60 and over received a conviction.
  • Of all offences committed by males[1] and dealt with by conviction or diversion, 19.4% (3,414) were first offences; the comparative figure for females was 35.8% (1,385).


  • Over half, 60.0% (2,880) of all first offences in 2020/21 were motoring offences. Of all instances where a conviction or diversion was issued for offences in that category, 34.9% were for first offences.
  • Monetary disposals made up 60.4% (2,900) of all disposals for first offences in 2020/21. First offences accounted for 29.2% of all instances where a monetary penalty was imposed in relation to a conviction or diversion.
  • Of all instances where imprisonment was imposed as a penalty, first offences accounted for only 2.7% (67 out of 2,491).
  • First offences accounted for 44.7% (1,389) of all instances where a diversionary disposal was issued. Of first offences dealt with by diversion, 76.3% (1,060) were dealt with by way of caution. However, while 44.7% of all cautions were for first offences, 73.1% (190) of all informed warnings issued were for first offences.

[1] Figures for Males also include organisations, transgender and gender not specified, due to the small numbers involved.

Notes to editors: 

1.  This bulletin presents information on first time entrants (first offences) to the criminal justice system disaggregated by age, gender, offence category and disposal type for 2020/21. 

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.  Figures for first time entrants to the justice system in Northern Ireland, as reported in this bulletin, are based on those who have had a conviction at any time since 1960 and those who had either a conviction or a diversionary disposal since the implementation of the Causeway system DSM1, in December 2009. This means that the reported rate of first offences may be slightly higher than the actuality, as, in some cases, first offences would have been dealt with by means of diversionary disposal, information on which is not available prior to the introduction of DSM1.  However, any likely impact should lessen with the passing of time.  Reoffending statistics suggest that, in most crime categories, persons who commit a proven reoffence do so within one year.  As a result, the first year when it might be considered that the effect of diversions data being unavailable for the period prior to 2010 might be reduced, is 2011/12 and data in this series are available from that point forward.  Data for the 2021/22 year will be published in 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 DoJ 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 on telephone number 028 9052 6444.

7.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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