Public Prosecution Service / Service Prosecuting Authority: Consultation on the Protocol Regarding the Exercise of Criminal Jurisdiction in Northern Ireland

Closed 20 Apr 2023

Opened 23 Feb 2023


This is a public consultation to seek your views on a new Protocol between the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS) and the Service Prosecuting Authority (SPA) regarding the exercise of criminal jurisdiction in Northern Ireland.

The primary purpose of the Protocol is to provide guidance for prosecutors regarding the exercise of jurisdiction in respect of the conduct of a person subject to Service law which occurs when that person is in Northern Ireland. In particular, the Protocol identifies principles which are to be considered when a decision is made as to the appropriate jurisdiction in which to bring proceedings. Whilst there is an existing non-statutory Protocol in place regarding the exercise of criminal jurisdiction in England and Wales, which will be revised following a parallel consultation process in that jurisdiction, no such Protocol is currently in place in this jurisdiction. The Protocol will be published on the PPS and SPA websites when the agreement has been signed by the parties.

The Protocol has been placed on a statutory footing by section 7 of the Armed Forces Act 2021, which inserts section 320C into Chapter 3A of the Armed Forces Act 2006. Under the new statutory provisions, we are obliged to consult on the Protocol with the Secretary of State, the Department of Justice in Northern Ireland, the Chief Constable of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, the Attorney General for Northern Ireland and any other appropriate person.

The Protocol can be accessed here:

Protocol Regarding the Exercise of Criminal Jurisdiction in Northern Ireland

We wish to seek the views of other interested stakeholders, specifically on the guidance in the Protocol on the general principles to be applied by prosecutors when making decisions on jurisdiction.

Section 320C(4)(a) of the Armed Forces Act 2006 states that the Protocol must give guidance on the general principles to be applied by prosecutors when making decisions on jurisdiction. These are set out in section 3 of the Protocol. The main principles governing jurisdiction, at paragraph 3.3, indicate that proceedings should be brought in the service jurisdiction if the alleged conduct does not affect the person or property of a civilian. At paragraph 3.4 we have included an extensive non-exhaustive list of factors that prosecutors should consider. There are a number of new factors which represent significant additions to those in the Protocol currently in place in England and Wales. For example:

    • Factor (i), any views expressed by the victim; and factor (k), a list of considerations that may be particularly relevant in cases involving allegations of domestic abuse, sexual offences or child abuse. These considerations are intended to address concerns about decisions on the appropriate jurisdiction in domestic abuse, child abuse and sexual offence cases, which were subject to recommendations 1-3 of the Lyons Review of the Service Justice System in 2018. The considerations reflect some of the services, practices and judicial orders available in the civilian system, which may be of benefit to complainants. These include a multi-agency approach, which acknowledges that social services are more accessible in the civilian system.
    • Factor (j), a list of considerations that may be particularly relevant where the suspect or defendant is a child or young person. These considerations have been included to address concerns that decisions on the most appropriate jurisdiction to deal with a suspect who is a child or young person take into account factors pertaining to their best interests and welfare, and prevention of their reoffending. The considerations largely highlight some of the services, disposals and sentences that are available only in the civilian system, such as the Youth Court.
    • Factor (l): any initial decisions made as to which police force should investigate the alleged conduct, and whether those decisions were made in accordance with relevant police guidance. This factor should hopefully encourage the correct allocation to be made by the police at the outset of the investigation. We expect the revised police guidance to mirror the principles in the revised Protocol. 

Why your views matter

The PPS would welcome comments from any interested individuals or groups regarding the scope aWe would welcome your views on section 3 of the Protocol, in particular. You are invited to submit your views using a short questionnaire (4 questions in total) which can be accessed via the link below.

At the end of the consultation period, copies of responses received by the PPS may be made publicly available. The information will also be published in a summary of responses which will be made available on the PPS and SPA websites. If you do not want all or part of your response or name made public, please state this clearly in your response. Any confidentiality disclaimer that may be generated by you or your organisation's IT system or included as a general statement in your fax cover sheet, will be taken to apply only to information in your response for which confidentiality has been specifically requested.

Any personal data which you provide will be handled in accordance with the Data Protection Act 2018. Respondents should also be aware that the PPS's obligations under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 may require that responses not subject to specific exemptions in the Act may be communicated to third parties on request.

It should be noted that initial equality screening has been carried out and no differential impacts were identified. However, comments will also be welcomed from any person or organisations representing Section 75 groups that can highlight any aspect of the policy which may result in an unintentional impact. The initial screening form is available via the Equality area of the PPS website. 

Data Protection

The Data Controller of this information is the Public Prosecution Service, 93 Chichester Street, Belfast BT1 3JR. The Data Protection Officer for the Service can be contacted at

Details of why we collect your data, what we do with it, and how we protect your privacy, along with the PPS Retention and Disposal Policy (detailing the time periods for which different classes of data are retained), can be found on the PPS website. The relevant Privacy Notice can be viewed here.


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