I have today placed in the Library of the House copies of the first annual report of the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland and of its business plan for the coming year.
While the new service was formally launched in June 2005, it initially took work only from the six police districts that make up the PPS Belfast region. It has, however, been planned from the start as a regional service and the last year has seen good progress in rolling out the service over the whole of Northern Ireland.
In August 2005, the PPS western and southern region assumed responsibility for the conduct of all youth offences occurring in the PSNI’s Armagh, Banbridge and Newry and Mourne districts, as well as all prosecutions from the five police districts within Fermanagh and Tyrone. A new Lisburn office, serving as headquarters of the PPS eastern region, opened in March 2006 and will be fully operational by October this year, when it will add a further six police districts to those already within the PPS structure.
The rollout of the PPS will continue through this year and next, and when completed will operate from six regional offices planned for Belfast, Lisburn, Newry, Omagh, Londonderry and Ballymena. This regional approach, with each office having its own regional prosecutor, will encourage local involvement with the service, helping the community to understand its work and how it goes about reaching decisions, and thereby building public confidence in the criminal justice system. The annual report and business plan is part of this process and will be of interest to anyone with an interest in the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland or in criminal justice generally.