This depends on what type of crime is committed. Crimes are divided into two types – summary offences and indictable offences.
- are less serious crimes;
- are heard by a judge without a jury in the District Court; and
- carry a maximum prison sentence of 12 months for one offence.
If a judge in the District Court hears the case, either a Garda or a solicitor from the DPP’s Office may present the case.
- 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.
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.
The District Court
This is the first court to which Gardaí take the accused. In the District Court, a judge:
- hears details of the charges against the accused;
- says whether a case is ready to go to trial; and
- hears trials for less serious cases (summary offences) without a jury.
If the accused pleads ‘not guilty’ in the District Court, the prosecution will call witnesses to give evidence to try to prove that the accused is guilty.
Circuit Court and Central Criminal Court
These courts hold trials that are more serious than those in the District Court. In these courts, the judge is joined by a jury. The jury must decide if the accused is guilty or innocent.
Special Criminal Court
This court is similar to the Circuit and Central Criminal Courts, except:
- there is no jury; and
- three judges hear each case.