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The Role of the DPP

ROLE OF THE DPP

  1. What does the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) do?
  2. What does the Chief Prosecution Solicitor do?
  3. Does the DPP investigate crimes?
  4. Does the DPP prosecute all criminal offences?
  5. Is the DPP independent?
  6. Can I write to the DPP about a case?
  7. Can anyone else write to the DPP about a case?
  8. What are the types of criminal offence and how do they differ?
  9. How does the DPP reach a decision to prosecute?
  10. Why might the DPP decide not to prosecute a case?
  11. How long does it take the DPP to reach a decision?
  12. Does the DPP prosecute cases on behalf of crime victims?
  13. Does the DPP give reasons for his decisions?
  14. Why does the DPP not give reasons for his decisions?
  15. Can a decision made by the DPP be changed?
  16. Can a crime victim meet with a member of staff of the DPP’s office to discuss a particular decision?
  17. Can I get information from a prosecution file by making an application under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997?
  18. Is the victim told if the DPP decides to prosecute?
  19. What happens when the case goes to court?
  20. What can a victim of crime expect from the prosecution team?
  21. Is the DPP responsible for sentencing when a person is convicted?
  22. Can the DPP appeal a sentence?
  23. Who can ask the DPP to appeal a sentence?
  24. How do appeal court judges review a sentence?
  25. Will the Office of the DPP give me legal advice?
  26. Does the Office of the DPP have a complaints procedure?


  1. What does the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) do?

    The DPP decides whether to prosecute people for committing crimes and what the charges should be. Once the prosecution starts, the Office of the DPP is in charge of the prosecution case.

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  2. What does the Chief Prosecution Solicitor do?

    The Chief Prosecution Solicitor acts as solicitor to the DPP and is head of the Solicitors Division of the DPP's office. The staff of the Solicitors Division represent the DPP in all courts in Dublin. Local state solicitors represent the DPP in courts outside Dublin.

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  3. Does the DPP investigate crimes?

    No. Crimes are investigated by the Garda Síochána. When the Gardaí investigate a serious crime, they send a file to the DPP who decides what charges, if any, to bring.

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  4. Does the DPP prosecute all criminal offences?

    The DPP prosecutes all serious crimes and sometimes less serious crimes. The most serious cases are heard before a jury in the Circuit Court, Central Criminal Court or Special Criminal Court.

    The Gardaí may prosecute less serious crimes. However, the prosecution is still taken in the name of the DPP and the DPP has the right to tell the Gardaí how to deal with the case.

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  5. Is the DPP independent?

    Yes. The DPP is independent when carrying out his job. This means that the Government or the Gardaí can neither make the DPP prosecute a particular case nor stop him from doing so.

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  6. Can I write to the DPP about a case?

    You can write to the DPP about a case if you are:

    • a victim of a crime;
    • a family member of a victim of a crime;
    • an accused person; or
    • a family member of an accused person.

     

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  7. Can anyone else write to the DPP about a case?

    Lawyers, doctors and social workers can write to the DPP on behalf of their clients.

    It is against the law for anybody else to contact the DPP and ask him to either withdraw or not start a prosecution.

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  8. What are the types of criminal offence and how do they differ?


    Crimes are divided into two types - summary offences and indictable offences.

    Summary offences

    • are less serious crimes;
    • are heard by a judge without a jury in the District Court; and
    • carry a maximum prison sentence of 2 months for one offence.

    Indictable offences

    • are more serious crimes;
    • are heard by a judge and jury in the Circuit Court or the Central Criminal Court;
    • carry more serious penalties if the court convicts the accused - up to life imprisonment for some crimes; and
    • are sometimes dealt with in the Special Criminal Court by three judges without a jury.
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  9. How does the DPP reach a decision to prosecute?

    The decision to prosecute or not to prosecute is very important. If someone is prosecuted and later found not guilty, they can suffer a lot of damage. On the other hand, 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.

    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 have 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 is important to know if there is independent evidence that supports the victim's story. This could be evidence from a witness or forensic evidence such as fingerprints or bloodstains. Independent evidence makes a stronger case than a case based on one person's word against another's.

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  10. 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 to convince the court that a person is guilty, the prosecution will not go ahead.

    Even where the prosecutor believes the victim's story, the evidence may simply not be strong enough to convince a jury 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 elderly or 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.

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  11. How long does it take the DPP to reach a decision?

    Each case is different and must receive careful consideration. If a case is straightforward, the DPP will generally make a decision within two weeks. Other cases may take longer because:

    • they are more complex;
    • there is a lot of material to consider;
    • there is more than one accused person; or
    • the DPP needs more information before he can decide.
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  12. 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.

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  13. Does the DPP give reasons for his decisions?

    When the DPP decides not to prosecute in a particular case, he will tell the Garda Síochána, or other investigating agency, the reasons for his decision. These reasons are kept confidential. The DPP does not give reasons for his decisions to anyone else. This policy has been supported in recent years by a number of High Court and Supreme Court decisions.

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  14. Why does the DPP not give reasons for his decisions?

    In many cases, giving a reason in public could amount to condemning a person without a trial. For example, the reason a person was not prosecuted might be because a key witness was abroad and would not come back to give evidence. But to say this publicly would be like saying that the accused was guilty even though he or she did not have a trial.

    Sometimes, the reason may be something that would be unfair to make public, such as the medical condition of a witness.

    If reasons were given in some cases but not in others, people might jump to the wrong conclusions about cases where no reason was given.

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  15. Can a decision made by the DPP be changed?

    Certain people may ask the DPP to review a decision he has made. These include:

    • a victim of a crime;
    • a family member of a victim of a crime;
    • an accused person; or
    • a family member of an accused person.

    Doctors, lawyers and social workers can also ask the DPP to review a decision for their clients.

    If the DPP changes his decision, it is usually because new evidence has come to light.

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  16. 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 with crime victims to discuss decisions. However, crime victims are welcome to write to the DPP's office about particular decisions.

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  17. Can I get information from a prosecution file by making an application under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997?

    No. Under section 46(1)(b) of the Freedom of Information Act, 1997, 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.

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  18. Is the victim told if the DPP decides to prosecute?

    Yes. The investigating Garda tells the victim about the progress of the investigation. When the DPP makes his decision, the Garda tells the victim about it. The Garda should also tell the victim the time, date and place of the court hearing.

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  19. What happens when the case goes to court?

    That depends on whether the crime is an indictable offence or a summary offence.

    Indictable offences

    If a judge and jury hear the case, a solicitor working for the DPP will prepare the case for court. A barrister acting on behalf of the DPP will present the prosecution case in court.

    Summary offences

    If a judge in the District Court hears the case, either a Garda or a prosecution solicitor may present the case.

    You can find out more about what happens in court during a criminal trial in our booklet Attending Court as a Witness. To request a copy of this booklet, please contact our office.

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  20. What can a victim of crime expect from the prosecution team?

    The prosecution solicitor will work with the Garda Síochána to keep the victim fully informed of developments in relation to the prosecution.

    The Office of the DPP will offer the victim, or the family of a victim who has died, a pre-trial meeting. This happens in the most serious cases such as sexual or violent crime cases. In most other cases, the victim may request a meeting.

    The pre-trial meeting is with the prosecution solicitor and the barrister dealing with the case.

    The purpose of a pre-trial meeting is to explain what will happen in court. Barristers and solicitors are not allowed to discuss the actual evidence that witnesses will give. This prevents someone telling the witness what evidence to give. It also avoids any suggestion that the witness has been told what to say.

    The Garda Síochána will give the victim contact details for the Crime Victims Helpline. This is a telephone support service for crime victims. The Helpline can provide contact details for court support and other victim support services. The Helpline number is 1850 211 407.

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  21. Is the DPP responsible for sentencing when a person is convicted?

    No. The judge decides what sentence to give based on the evidence presented by both the prosecution and the defence. Judges also make decisions about:

    • the listing of court cases;
    • the fixing of trial dates; and
    • whether to postpone cases.

    Under the Constitution, judges are independent.

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  22. Can the DPP appeal a sentence?

    Yes, but only if the trial took place in the Circuit, Central Criminal or Special Criminal Court. The DPP cannot appeal a sentence of the District Court.

    If the DPP thinks that a sentence is 'unduly lenient' - in other words, too light without a good reason - he can ask the Court of Criminal Appeal to review it. He must ask for a review within 28 days of the judge handing down the sentence. In some cases, the DPP can apply for more time to ask for a review but not more than 56 days.

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  23. Who can ask the DPP to appeal a sentence?

    By law, you can ask the DPP to appeal a sentence only if you are:

    • a victim of a crime;
    • a family member of a victim of a crime;
    • an accused person; or
    • a family member of an accused person.

    Doctors, lawyers or social workers can also ask the DPP to appeal a sentence for a client.

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  24. How do appeal court judges review a sentence?

    The judges will read the written record of the trial to see the trial judge's reasons for giving a particular sentence. They will consider a sentence 'unduly lenient' only if they believe the trial judge made a mistake on a legal point.

    Appeal court judges will not change a sentence just because they think the sentence was too light or because they would have given a different sentence. As a result, an appeal will only be possible in a small number of cases.

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  25. Will the Office of the DPP give me legal advice?

    No. The Office of the DPP does not give legal advice to members of the public. If you have a legal question, you should consult your solicitor.

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  26. Does the Office of the DPP have a complaints procedure?

    Yes. If you have a complaint about how we work,
    you can contact us at:

    Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
    14 - 16 Merrion Street
    Dublin 2

    Tel: (01) 678 9222
    Fax: (01) 661 0915

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