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- Brief guide to the criminal justice system
- Victims & Witnesses
- Working for the DPP
Victims of crime
If you are a victim of crime the prosecution solicitor will work with Gardaí to make sure you always know what is happening in the case.
If I am giving evidence as a victim, will I meet the prosecution team before the trial?
Generally speaking, you will be able to meet the prosecution lawyers at a pre-trial meeting. In serious cases, such as sexual offences, the prosecution solicitor will offer to arrange this for you. You may choose to have the pre-trial meeting a short while before the trial or on the morning the trial is due to begin.
If you would like a meeting and it has not yet been offered to you, you should tell the Garda looking after your case. The Garda will contact the DPP’s office or local state solicitor to arrange the meeting.Return to Top
What happens at the pre-trial meeting?
Pre-trial meetings allow the barrister and solicitor to explain to you what happens in court. However, strict rules prevent them from talking to you about what evidence you will give. This is so that nobody can suggest that someone told you what to say in court.Return to Top
If I am a victim of a crime, can I see a written record of the trial?
The written record of the trial is called a transcript. The prosecution and defence teams may get the transcript after the trial has ended and if there is an appeal. Only a judge can say whether you can see the transcript.Return to Top
What happens if I do not want to be in the courtroom with the accused when I give my evidence?
In most cases, you will have to give your evidence in the courtroom. In some cases, however, you may be able to give evidence by videolink, which is a live television link system. This has some benefits:
- You give your evidence to a camera in another part of the court building away from the courtroom.
- Lawyers can ask you questions as if you were actually sitting in front of them.
- Your evidence appears on a TV screen in the courtroom, but you will only see the person asking you questions.
Which witnesses can use videolink?
In sexual or violent crime cases, witnesses under the age of 17 and those with a learning disability may use videolink to give their evidence unless the judge decides they must be in the courtroom.
If you are allowed to use videolink, a person from the Courts Service will help you while you are in the videolink room. If you want, you can ask to see this room before the trial so that you will be used to it when you need to give evidence.
Once you turn 18 and are an adult, you can use videolink only if the court allows you to.Return to Top
If I am a victim of a crime, can I get a lawyer to represent me in court?
No, unless you are the victim of a sexual offence and the defence want to cross-examine you about your sexual history. They can do this only if they ask the judge for permission. A lawyer can represent you when the defence makes this application.
If you can have a lawyer represent you, the Legal Aid Board will provide one free of charge. The prosecution solicitor dealing with your case will arrange this for you. The lawyer will meet you before the defence applies to cross-examine you. The lawyer will also be in court when the judge gives his or her decision to the defence. But the lawyer will not be allowed to represent you during the cross-examination itself.
The DPP does not represent victims of crime. The DPP prosecutes cases on behalf of the people of Ireland, not on behalf of any one individual.Return to Top
Can I remain anonymous when giving my evidence?
Generally speaking, no. This is because the Constitution says that all cases should take place in public.
However, some trials take place without the public being present. These include:
- rape and some sexual offence cases; and
- cases where the accused is under the age of 18.
When a trial takes place without the public being present, you give evidence in the courtroom. Generally, only the people directly involved in the case will be there.
Journalists may be in the courtroom. Usually, they cannot report the names of the accused or the victim or write anything that could help people find out their names. A journalist who breaks these rules is guilty of a criminal offence.Return to Top
If I am prepared to let my name be made public so the guilty party will be named – can I do this?
This is a complicated subject and it is not possible to give a full account of the law here.
In some cases, names cannot be made public at all. For example, in cases of rape the accused has the right not to let his or her name be made public unless he or she is convicted. This means that nothing can be said to identify the accused before the verdict. An accused person who is found not guilty may not be identified.
If the accused is convicted, some victims may want the name of the accused to be made public. But often, if the convicted person is named, the identity of the victim will become known too. Despite this, some victims decide they want the convicted person named. If you want this to happen, you should tell the prosecution solicitor and the court.
If you are a victim, you should think carefully about what the naming of the guilty party will mean for you, your family and your future before you decide what to do. It may be a good idea to get your own legal advice.Return to Top
If I am a victim of a crime, how do the judge and jury learn about the effect the crime has had on me?
It is important for a judge to know what effect a crime has had on a victim when he or she is deciding on a sentence. In cases involving sexual offences or violent crime, the judge can ask for a Victim Impact Statement once the jury has found the accused guilty. This statement describes how the crime has affected you and is still affecting you.Return to Top
What kind of help can I get if I need to give evidence as a victim of a crime?
The prosecution solicitor will work with Gardaí to make sure you always know what is happening in the case.
There are also a number of organisations that can offer you a court support service. This means that, if you wish, a volunteer will accompany you to the trial and stay with you throughout.
The Crime Victims Helpline, which provides a telephone support service for victims of crime, can give you contact details for court support and other victim support services. You can contact the Crime Victims Helpline at 116 006 (free phone).
Many courthouses have a room available for victims and witnesses during a trial.Return to Top
What help can I get with the cost of coming to court to give evidence?
The Garda Síochána is responsible for paying witnesses’ expenses. This is the cost to you of coming to court to give evidence. These expenses may include the cost of taking time off work, travelling expenses, meals and, if you live in another part of the country, accommodation.
Expenses are paid by the Garda Superintendent (District Officer) in the area where the case is being prosecuted. The Garda dealing with your case can handle this for you. He or she may ask you for receipts for travel and, if you are claiming loss of wages, a letter from your employer.
In some cases, you may be able to get an advance on expenses before the case so that you can travel to court.Return to Top
If I am a victim of a crime, do I have the right to get compensation?
By law, you may have a right to money for any personal injury or lost earnings that you suffered because of the offence. However, there are some limits.
- It is up to the judge to order the accused or their guardian to pay you.
- The judge must first check whether they can afford to pay you. If they’re unemployed, for example, the judge would see no point in ordering them to pay.
- The amount of money you get cannot be more than the amount you could have got from a civil claim in the same court.
The Criminal Injuries Compensation Tribunal may pay compensation for personal injury that is a direct result of a violent crime. Click here for more information on the Tribunal.Return to Top