Northern Ireland

McGrory welcomes 'impartial PPS' survey

Barra McGrory
Image caption Barra McGrory said the rise in confidence levels was "a credit to the professionalism and dedication of all of our staff"

The director of the Public Prosecution Service has welcomed an independent survey that found that over three quarters of people have confidence it provides a fair and impartial service.

It's an increase of 5% on last year, and the highest for more than a decade.

The NI Omnibus Survey also found that 73% of respondents said they were confident the PPS takes prosecution decisions independently.

It comes months after the PPS was accused of bias.

Some unionist and Conservative politicians accused it of being biased against former soldiers accused of killings during the Troubles.

Hitting back at those critics at the time, the director of public prosecutions, Barra McGrory QC, said they had unfairly insulted him and his office.

Positive perception

On Thursday, he welcomed the findings of the survey by the Central Survey Unit of the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency, and based on 911 interviews.

He said the findings suggest his critics were out of step with public opinion.

"That is encouraging for me, having gone through that period of criticism and having been very worried about the effect of it on public confidence, so I think the general public is able to, maybe, see it for what it was."

In spite of strong criticism from unionist and Conservative politicians this year, the survey found that confidence levels in the independence of the PPS was higher among Protestant respondents than Catholics.

The overall figure was 73%, an increase of 6% on last year.

When broken down along religious lines, 76% of Protestants expressed confidence, while the figure for Catholics was 71%.

Fairness and impartiality

The same was true when respondents were asked about the fairness and impartiality of the PPS.

Overall, 76% said they were very, or fairly, confident in the organisation's fairness and impartiality, an increase of 5% since last year.

Broken down on religious lines, 71% of Catholics expressed confidence, while the figure for Protestants was 81%.

Seventy-one per cent of respondents said they were very or fairly confident that the PPS was effective at prosecuting people accused of committing a crime.

The DUP has welcomed the findings and said it is important that the public views the PPS as independent.

But the party's South Belfast MP Emma Little Pengelly said it still has concerns about how cases involving former soldiers and police officers are handled.

Confidence

"This survey is about general confidence in terms of contemporary policing and contemporary prosecutions," she said.

"But there is a particular concern in relation to legacy cases and we have said that we will be scrutinising this matter as it moves forward.

"I know that the current director is obviously leaving his post and as the new director comes in he, or she will have a piece of work to do in order to build confidence particularly in relation to legacy cases."

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