The issue arose following a change in the law in 2009 which unintentionally removed certain sexual offences from the caseload of the Magistrates' Court, meaning they could only be handled in the Crown Court.

Therefore, the Magistrates' Court had no power to try the 15 cases which were heard between 2009 and 2017 and included 17 victims, 11 of whom were children at the time of the offenses.

Northern Ireland's Public Prosecution Service (PPS) made the grim announcement Wednesday, stating that the mistake was made before devolution of justice powers to the Northern Ireland Executive in 2010, meaning the error came on the UK government’s watch.

One of the defendants was jailed while the remainder were handed suspended sentences.

All of the convictions were found to be invalid following review and have now been rescinded, while authorities try to determine whether fresh prosecutions will be brought against the 15 defendants involved.

Also, one of the defendants will now be removed from the Sex Offenders' Register.

The assistant director with the PPS, Ciaran McQuillan, said he was “truly sorry to have to inform all affected by this unforeseen and undetected error in the law.”