Sexual offences have lowest conviction rates in country’s circuit courts

The 89% conviction rate for sexual offences in the country's circuit courts compares with 100% for fatal offences, 98% for offences against property such as burglary and theft, and 93% for road traffic offences.

The figures form 2014, the latest period available, also show people living in Dublin are more likely to face a jury trial for a serious criminal offence than residents in any other part of the country.

Published by the Director of Public Prosecutions, statistics also show the highest rate of decisions by the DPP to prosecute alleged offenders are against those living in Dublin.

Dubliners are more than twice as likely to face a criminal trial, before a jury, than residents of many counties including Galway, Kilkenny, Kildare, or Meath.

On average, one in every 1,000 people living in Dublin has faced a criminal trial each year since 2013.

The figures relate to directions by the DPP to prosecute, on indictment, by the county in which the offence was committed.

They include cases directed to be heard in the Circuit Criminal, Central Criminal and Special Criminal Courts.

Limerick is the second-highest level likely to face serious criminal charges, with 0.83 citizens per 1,000 population the subject of a decision by the DPP to prosecute. Cork has the third highest level at 0.74 per 1,000 population, just ahead of Waterford at 0.72. Louth, Westmeath, and Tipperary also have relatively high levels of people being charged with serious crimes compared to the rest of the country.

At the other end of the scale, people in Donegal would appear to be the most law-abiding, with just 0.32 per 1,000 — a third the rate of Dubliners — facing a jury trial per annum. Other counties with low rates of people due before the courts for serious criminal offences are Roscommon, Wexford, Meath, Kilkenny, and Kildare.

The total number of directions by the DPP to prosecute individuals for a serious criminal offence last year was 3,250 — an annual increase of 2.4%. Since 2009 when they peaked at almost 3,900, the number of such cases fell continuously until 2013 when they had reduced to 3,108. However, they have now increased in the last two years.

While levels of criminal prosecutions have been falling in most counties in recent years, they have been increasing in Cork, Cavan, Leitrim, and Meath but particularly in Limerick, where the three-year rolling average has increased from 0.71 per 1,000 in 2014 to 0.83 last year.

Significant reductions in such rates were recorded in Louth, Longford, Laois, and Offaly over the same period.

Figures issued by the DPP show that sexual offences had the lowest conviction rate with 89% of such cases coming before the country’s Circuit Criminal Courts in 2014 resulting in a conviction.

A total of 2,159 cases were finalised before the Circuit Courts nationwide in 2014 with a 100% conviction rate recorded in trials held in Monaghan, Donegal, Galway, and Leitrim. The national average was 95%.

The lowest conviction rate was found in Sligo at 81% where almost 2 in 10 people being prosecuted did not receive a criminal conviction.

Other relatively low conviction levels were found in Waterford, Wicklow, Kildare, and Meath where such rates were below 90%.


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