The number of court cases being heard in Tyrone and Fermanagh has fallen by almost over a quarter in four years, according to figures released by the Department of Justice.
According to statistics obtained by Lord Morrow MLA this court division had the second highest total in 2010/11 with 9,154 while in 2013-14 the total had dropped to 6,745 - a drop of 26.3 per cent.
“It is difficult to ascertain if the fall is due to a lack of evidence to prosecute or a reduction in policing resources.”
“The overall trend across Northern Ireland would appear to show a decline in the number of cases being processed through courts,” Lord Morrow told the Mail.
“Whilst I would have hoped this was due to a drop in the crime statistics, sadly the corresponding figures do not support this.
“It is difficult to ascertain if the fall is due to a lack of evidence to prosecute or a reduction in policing resources, but either way, it is imperative there is no disparity in the implementing of justice, particularly from the viewpoint of victims and public safety.
“Another striking feature is while the court figures have declined - in some instances very steeply over a short timeframe - the figures for legal aid continue to climb. That doesn’t make any sense at all and I would call on the Minister for Justice to look closely at this phenomenon, given the grater majority of the cases passing through the courts will have been legally assisted.”
Overall N. Ireland has shown a significant drop in the number of defendants going through the courts with 63,437 (2010-11) falling to 52,701 (2013-14).
The Londonderry Court Division is the only one which has seen the number of court cases through the Magistrate’s Court grow.
Londonderry has actually overtaken Tyrone and Fermanagh Division to become the second highest number of cases of any division in NI with 6,308 cases through the Magistrate’s Courts in 2010-11 only to see an increase to 6,747 in the period 2013-14.
Although this only equates to an increase of 6.5 per cent, Londonderry is the only court division in the country which saw an increase during this period. Belfast had a decrease of 16 per cent while Antrim Division had a fall of 17.5%.