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What happens when a file goes to the DPP?
The decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is very important. Someone who is prosecuted and later found not guilty can suffer great damage. But a decision not to prosecute can cause great stress and upset to a victim. So the DPP must carefully consider whether or not to prosecute.
The DPP is independent when carrying out her job. This means that the Government or the Gardaí can neither make the DPP prosecute a particular case nor stop her doing so.
How does the DPP reach a decision to prosecute?
When the Gardaí complete their investigation, they send a file to the DPP. The prosecutor must read the file carefully and decide whether there is enough evidence to put before the court. The judge or jury has to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty. It is not enough for them to think that the accused is probably guilty.
For this reason it can be helpful to know if there is independent evidence that supports the victim’s story. This could be a statement from a witness or evidence such as fingerprints or bloodstains which can provide DNA. Independent evidence makes a stronger case than a case based on one person’s word against another's.Return to Top
Why might the DPP decide not to prosecute a case?
Lack of evidence is the most common reason for decisions not to prosecute. If there is not enough evidence for the court to be sure beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty, the prosecution will not succeed. It is not enough that the court may believe the victim's story. It has to be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt.
In a small number of cases, even though the evidence may be strong, the DPP may decide not to prosecute for other reasons. For example:
- where the offender is under 18 years of age and the case could be dealt with under the Juvenile Diversion Programme;
- where an adult is cautioned under the Adult Caution Scheme for minor offences rather than prosecuted; or
- where, in the public interest, it is better not to prosecute, for example if the offender is seriously ill.
Our publication Guidelines for Prosecutors has more detail about how the DPP makes a decision to prosecute. You may request a copy of this publication by contacting our Office, or click on this link >> Guidelines for Prosecutors to view the publication on this websiteReturn to Top
How long does it take the DPP to reach a decision?
Each case is different and has to be thought about carefully. If a case is straightforward, the DPP will generally make a decision within a few weeks. Other cases may take longer because:
- they are more complicated;
- there is a lot of evidence to think about;
- there is more than one accused person; or
- the DPP needs more information before making a decision.
Does the DPP prosecute cases on behalf of crime victims?
The DPP prosecutes cases on behalf of the people of Ireland, not on behalf of any one individual. For this reason, the views and interests of the victim cannot be the only consideration when deciding whether or not to prosecute.
However, the DPP will always take into account the consequences for the victim of the decision to prosecute or not. The DPP will also consider the views of the victim or the victim’s family.Return to Top
Does the DPP give reasons for her decisions not to prosecute?
Yes. You can ask the DPP for a summary of reasons for a decision not to prosecute if you are:
- a victim of crime (and the decision in your case was made on or after 16 November 2015);
- a family member of a victim in a fatal case (where the death took place on or after 22 October 2008);
- a solicitor acting on behalf of either of the above.
How can I request a summary of reasons for a decision made by the DPP?
You can request a summary of reasons for a decision not to prosecute by completing a Request for Reasons Form. The form is available on this website www.dppireland.ie or from your nearest Garda Station.
You must make a request within 28 days of the date you are told of the decision not to prosecute. In some cases the DPP might extend this time limit. She will do this only if there is a good reason and if it is in the interests of justice.Return to Top
Will the DPP give reasons in all cases?
No. If the decision not to prosecute was made by the Gardaí, a victim can ask the Gardaí for a summary of reasons for the decision.
The DPP cannot give reasons for decisions in cases where the suspect is dealt with under the Garda Síochána Adult Caution Scheme or the Juvenile Diversion Programme. Also, the DPP cannot give reasons for a decision not to prosecute if giving the information would:
- interfere with an ongoing criminal investigation;
- prejudice a future court case;
- put the personal safety of any person at risk;
- put the security of the State at risk.
Can a decision made by the DPP be reviewed?
Yes. If you are a victim, or a family member of a deceased victim, and you are not satisfied with the summary of reasons for our decision not to prosecute, you can ask us to review our decision. The review will be carried out by a lawyer who was not involved in making the original decision.
If the DPP changes her decision, it is usually because new evidence has come to light.Return to Top
Can a crime victim meet with a member of staff of the DPP’s office to discuss a particular decision?
No. The staff of the DPP’s office do not meet crime victims to discuss decisions. However, crime victims may write to the DPP’s office about particular decisions.Return to Top
Can I get information from a prosecution file by making an application under the Freedom of Information Act, 2014?
No. Under section 42(f) of the Freedom of Information Act, 2014, only records concerning the general administration of the Office of the DPP can be made public. This means you cannot get information from files relating to individual criminal cases.Return to Top