Seventy-one students who sat the Leaving Certificate this year have not been given their results over fears they have cheated.

The State Examinations Commission (SEC) confirmed that a total of 51 Leaving Certificate/Leaving Certificate Applied results have been permanently withheld.

An SEC spokeswoman said: "This includes full results withheld, or marks withheld, from candidates found to be in breach of the SEC's examinations regulations."

The decision to withhold a result is open to appeal.

The spokesman confirmed that in addition "the SEC has provisionally withheld 20 other results, on a without prejudice basis, pending further communication with the schools and candidates concerned".

The combined 71 total for the 2019 Leaving Certificate/Leaving Cert Applied compares to 72 results permanently withheld for the 2018 exams.

The 2018 total was a sharp increase on the 57 results permanently withheld in 2017. These totals followed 100 results withheld for 2016 and 101 for 2015.

At each exam centre for the Leaving Cert across the country, notices are placed in prominent locations warning students of the penalties for cheating.

Students are warned that they are liable to have their whole examination cancelled if they bring the likes of iPods, MP3/4 Players or mobile phones into the exam hall.

Students are also warned that they risk having their exam cancelled if they aid or attempt to aid another candidate or obtain or attempt to obtain aid from another candidate.

Candidates also face having their exam cancelled if they attempt to communicate with other students in the exam centre during the exam or by electronic means with people outside the centre.

The spokeswoman said: "In the interest of being fair to all candidates, the SEC must be satisfied that marks awarded have been gained fairly and will investigate any suggestion, suspicion or allegation of cheating or other impropriety in relation to the examinations."

She said: "This is essential in order to uphold the integrity of the Irish State examinations system and to underpin equity and fairness within the system in order to enable all candidates to display their achievements on an equal footing. 

She added: "The SEC would strongly caution any student that might be tempted to cheat that serious consequences can result. They could lose marks or the full result in a subject; they could lose the results of the entire examination; or they could be debarred from entering for any of the State examinations for a specified period."