The Public Prosecution Service will maintain a regional presence in Londonderry (Limavady Road), Newry and Omagh whilst implementing cuts to its operations across Northern Ireland over the next two years.
The PPS’ Management Board has approved proposals to restructure key areas of its management and estate against the backdrop of significant budget reductions.
Significant changes include: consolidating operations across four current locations - Belfast Chambers, Foyle Chambers, Newry Chambers and a satellite office in Omagh; the creation of a new Serious Crime section which will deal with the most serious indictable cases from across Northern Ireland; a more stream-lined senior management team; a reduction in PPS staff numbers from 525 to 483, delivered through the Northern Ireland Civil Service Voluntary Exit Scheme.
This is subject to funding being made available.
Foyle Chambers is located at Limavady Road in the city and is among the offices the PPS is consolidating its services into.
Under the restructuring plans, Foyle will become the base for a new PPS section called Western and Southern.
The Management Board embarked on the major re-structuring programme to position the PPS to meet all future demand by working at maximum efficiency.
They examined a wide-range of issues and a key consideration was the budget for the PPS for 2015/16, which sits at £34 million compared with a projected spend of £37 million.
The new arrangements have also been designed to take account of the revised Northern Ireland Courts Service administrative boundaries as set out in its recent consultation exercise which could see the closure of up to eight court venues.
Director of Public Prosecutions Barra McGrory QC said: “These have been difficult decisions but necessary ones to ensure that we meet the £3m reduction in our budget.
“We are a high performing organisation with a conviction rate of over 85%. My priority, together with the staff is to make sure that our high standards are maintained. We have taken the approach that this is an opportunity to have a fresh look at how we operate and to strengthen what we do.
“This will involve some centralisation of functions, including the creation of new specialist section which will focus on serious indictable offences, and we consider that this will enhance the resilience and efficiency of the PPS.”
Mr McGrory QC added: “We are changing the shape of how we deliver our service, without diluting the quality.
“This is the challenge facing organisations throughout the criminal justice sector. We have designed our changes so that we can operate effectively alongside the other agencies as they make their own decisions about their structures.
“We have listened carefully to our criminal justice stakeholders and, very importantly to me, have also engaged positively with staff on the way forward.
“I want to take this opportunity to thank the staff for the high levels of professionalism and dedication that they show in their work.”