The Northern Ireland Prison Population 2019/20 report published today

Date published: 25 September 2020

The Department of Justice (DoJ) today published ‘The Northern Ireland Prison Population 2019/20’ report. It is a National Statistics Publication.

Department of Justice Statistical graphic

The report looks at the average daily prison population and the number of receptions into Northern Ireland prisons for the financial year 2019/20.  The key findings were as follows:

Average Daily Prison Population

  • The overall average daily prison population increased by 4.7% during 2019/20 to 1,516.  Males increased from 1,384 to 1,442 while the female population increased from 65 to 74.
  • The remand population increased by 12.9% from 436 in 2018/19 to 492 this year and is at its highest level since reporting by financial year began in 2014/15.
  • The proportion of prisoners on remand has increased each year, rising from 23.3% during 2014/15 to 24.7% during 2015/16, 25.4% during 2016/17, 25.6% during 2017/18, 30.1% during 2018/19 and 32.4% during 2019/20.
  • During 2019/20 the average daily immediate custody prison population increased by 1.2% to 1,018. 
  • Prisoners aged between 30 to 39 years of age made up the largest age group of the average daily immediate custody prison population (34.4%; 350), the second year in succession this has been the case.  Prior to this, the age group 21 to 29 years had accounted for the largest number of prisoners from 2014/15 to 2017/18.
  • The proportion of those aged between 18 and 20 years of age has increased for the first time since 2014/15, accounting for 3.1% (32) of the total population during 2019/20.
  • In terms of custodial sentence length, the average daily population decreased in all sentence categories, compared to last year, except for those serving a life sentence (up from 158 to 165), a sentence greater than one year but less five years (up from 407 to 427) and a sentence greater than six months but twelve months or less (up from 172 to 179).
  • Violence against the Person offences continue to account for the largest proportion of all principal offence categories (34.2%; 348).


  • The number of receptions during 2019/20 was higher than the previous year, 5,322 compared to 5,252 during 2018/19, an increase of 1.3%.
  • Remand receptions increased by 3.2% over the last year, up from 3,206 during 2018/19 to 3,310 during 2019/20.
  • The number of receptions for fine default (where the individual was received into custody solely for fine default offences) decreased by 40.2%, from 371 in 2018/19 to 222 in 2019/20. 
  • The largest number of immediate custody receptions was recorded within the 21 to 29 years age group, accounting for 689 (39.7%) of receptions. 
  • A larger proportion of female receptions were sentenced to a custody sentence length of one year or less (85.6%) compared to males (76.8%).
  • Both Violence against the Person and Public Order offences accounted for the largest proportion of immediate custody receptions, at 18.1% (313) and 17.5% (304) respectively. 



Notes to editors: 

Notes for Editors

1.  This report presents information on the average daily prison population and the number of receptions into Northern Ireland Prisons for the financial year 2019/20.   It is a National Statistics Publication.

2.  National Statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for National Statistics. They undergo regular quality assurance reviews to ensure that they meet customer needs and are produced free from any political interference.  They are also subject to restrictions in terms of pre-release access.

3.  The report will be available in PDF format from either the DOJ statistics and research section of this website or via Analytical Services Group, Block B, Castle Buildings, Stormont Estate, Upper Newtownards Road, Belfast, BT4 3SG


4.  Press queries about this publication should be directed to the DOJ Press Office via email

5.  The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours’ service for media enquiries between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekends and public holidays. The duty press officer can be contacted out of hours on 028 9037 8110.

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