Courts Process

When the Gardaí or the DPP decide to prosecute, the case then goes to court. Most of the time, the investigating Garda will be the person who informs you about court dates and other developments. There can often be delays in the court process and many victims find the wait very difficult. Below is a brief explanation of what happens when a case goes to court and who can support you through the process.

As a victim of crime, you have the right to ask and be told by the Gardaí when and where

  • the court case you are involved in will take place,
  • what the suspect is being charged with and, if they are convicted,
  • the date they will be sentenced.

Cases are prosecuted in court by either the Gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions.

All cases begin in District Court. Less serious cases (summary offenses) stay in District Court.
More serious crimes (indictable offenses) are heard in either Circuit, Central, or Special Criminal Court.

In District Court, the Gardaí usually handle the prosecution of cases under the direction of the DPP. Cases are heard without a jury and the judge decides guilt or innocence. When someone is found guilty, the judge will also decide the sentence.

In Central and Circuit Court, cases are handled by the DPP. Cases are heard by a jury and presided over by a judge. The jury decides guilt or innocence. If the accused is found guilty, it is the judge who decides the sentence.

Victims of crime may be called to provide evidence (testify) in court. This can be a frightening and difficult experience for many victims. There is support available before, during and after providing testimony from victim support organisations such as Victim Support at Court, rape crisis centres and domestic violence organisations.  Visit our Support Services Page to find an organisation in your area. You can also ring the Crime Victims Helpline for free at 116 006 for additional support and guidance.

Verdict

After the prosecution and defense have presented their case, the Judge (District Court) or Jury (higher courts) decide whether there was enough evidence to convince them beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.

If someone is found “not guilty” in court, they can’t be prosecuted for the same crime again and the decision cannot be appealed.

If someone is found guilty, the judge will schedule a date for sentencing.

Sentencing

A judge decides what the consequences will be when someone pleads guilty or is found guilty. This is called “sentencing”. The judge will take many things into consideration when deciding on a sentence which can include the severity of the crime; previous criminal convictions; reports prepared by social workers, Probation Services and mental health professionals; and statements submitted by the victim and by supporters of the convicted person.

If the DPP believes that a sentence is unduly lenient (meaning not severe enough), they can lodge an appeal.

A convicted person can appeal both the conviction and the sentencing.

01

How to Report a Crime

If you are in immediate danger or there is an emergency, you should dial the Garda emergency number at 999 or 112.

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02

Garda Investigations

The first Garda you speak to will take down your information (such as name, address, date of birth and phone number) and the basic details of what happened.

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03

Decision to Prosecute

When an investigation is completed, a decision is made whether to prosecute someone for the crime. The decision to prosecute is sometimes called “file charges”.

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04

Director of Public Prosecution

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) decides whether or not to charge people for committing serious crimes and what the charges should be. The DPP is also responsible for prosecuting indictable offenses.

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05

Courts Process

When the Gardaí or the DPP decide to prosecute, the case then goes to court. Most of the time, the investigating Garda will be the person who informs you about court dates and other developments.

LEARN MORE
06

Victim Impact Statement

When someone pleads guilty or is found guilty in court, all victims have a right to submit a victim impact statement (sometimes called a “personal statement”) before the judge decides on a sentence. Providing a victim impact statement is a right but not a requirement.

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07

After Prosecution

When someone is convicted of a crime, they are sometimes sentenced to spend time in custody. Adults are placed in prison or the Central Mental Hospital. Juveniles are placed at the Oberstown Children Detention Campus.

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Restorative Justice

Is a term to describe a variety of practices that seek to provide opportunities for perpetrators to repair the harm they have done. The process generally requires the person to admit responsibility for the crime.

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Get Help Now

The Crime Victims Helpline is a listening and support service for victims of crime in Ireland. We provide time and space for victims to talk about their experiences. We also answer questions about the criminal justice system and help victims understand their rights.

Support Services

If you or a friend or family member has been impacted by crime, there are a number of organization in Ireland who can help.