The following is a brief guide to the Criminal Justice System and explains what happens when:

  • a crime is reported
  • a file goes to the DPP
  • the DPP decides to prosecute or not to prosecute
  • a case goes to court

If you are a victim or a witness, we hope you will find this section of our site useful and that it will help you to understand how the justice system operates.

The Office of the DPP collaborated with Newstalk to produce a 20-minute podcast for their ‘Let Me Explain’ series – ‘Let Me Explain the Criminal Justice System’ – and you can listen to this podcast here.


A document explaining in greater detail how the Prosecution System in Ireland works is also available here.


What happens when someone reports a crime?

Decision to Prosecute

What happens when a file goes to the DPP? How does the DPP reach a decision to prosecute?

Charging the accused

What happens after the Gardaí charge the accused? What courts can hear criminal cases?

The Court Case

Who can be a witness in a criminal case? Can I see the Book of Evidence? Are there any reasons why a trial might not go ahead?

Victims of crime

What happens at a pre-trial meeting? Can I remain anonymous when giving my evidence? How does the judge learn about the effects the crime has had on me?

Sentencing and appeals

If the jury finds the accused guilty, the judge has to decide what the sentence should be. Can the accused appeal the sentence handed down by the judge? Can the DPP appeal the sentence?

The Prosecution System in Ireland

A document providing greater detail of the Prosecution Service in Ireland, and the work currently undertaken by the different ‘prosecutors’ within the Irish prosecution system.

Rights of suspects and accused persons

Letter of Rights Accompanying Summons. If you are involved in a court process, you have certain rights.

Letter of Rights in Custody Cases. If you are arrested by Gardaí you have legal rights while in Garda custody.