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.
Victims of Crime
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.
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.
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.
If you are a victim of crime, the Garda or the prosecution team can apply to the court to ask if you can give your evidence by videolink. They will do this if they think that it would be better for you to give your evidence this way. If the judge decides you can do this, it means that you can give your evidence without seeing the accused person. This has some benefits:
- You give your evidence in front of a camera in another part of the court building away from the courtroom.
- The legal team can ask you questions as if you were actually sitting in front of them.
- The court will see you giving your evidence on a television screen. However, you will only see the person who is asking you questions, not the accused person.
If I am a victim of crime, will I have access to interpretation or translation services if I need them?
Yes, as a victim you have a right to translation and interpretation services, both before and during the court case. If you need these services, you should tell the Gardaí so that the services can be put in place. Sometimes a victim may not ask for these services but if the Gardaí, the prosecution team or the court think that you need them, they will get them for you. This will help you to understand what is happening and help the prosecution team and the court to understand you.
No, a lawyer cannot represent you unless you are the victim of a serious sexual offence and the defence team wants to cross-examine you about your sexual history. They can do this only if the judge allows them to. A lawyer can represent you in court when the defence team is asking the judge for permission.
If you are a victim of a serious sexual offence, the Legal Aid Board will provide a lawyer for you free of charge. The prosecution solicitor dealing with your case will set this up for you. Your lawyer will meet you before the defence team applies to cross-examine you. Your lawyer will also be in court when the judge tells the defence whether they can cross-examine you or not.
If the judge gives permission to cross-examine you, your lawyer cannot represent you during the cross-examination itself. However, the judge should make sure that the defence team stays within the limits set by the court when they cross-examine you.
Generally speaking, no. This is because the Constitution of Ireland says that all cases should take place in public unless the law makes an exception. It can do this for certain types of cases, for example:
- rape and some sexual offence cases; and
- cases where the accused is under the age of 18.
In these cases, trials take place without the public being present. This means that generally only the people directly involved will be in the courtroom when you give your evidence. Journalists may also be in the courtroom. However, journalists cannot report the names of the accused person 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.
This is a complex issue and it is not possible to give a full account of the law here.
In some cases, it is not possible to make names public at all. For example, in rape cases, accused people have the right to keep their name private unless they are found guilty. This means that nothing can be said to identify the accused before the verdict. It is not possible to reveal the identity of an accused person who is found not guilty.
If the accused is found guilty, some victims may want the name of the accused to be made public. Often, however, if the guilty person is named, the identity of the victim will become known. Despite this, some victims decide that they want the guilty person to be named. If you want this to happen, you should tell the prosecution solicitor.
If you are a victim, you should think carefully about what the naming of the guilty party will mean for you, before you decide what to do. It may be a good idea to get your own legal advice about this.
It is important for a judge to know what effect a crime has had on a victim when deciding on a sentence. You can make a Victim Impact Statement once the accused is found guilty or pleads guilty. This statement describes how the crime has affected you and is still affecting you. Click here for our information leaflet on ‘Making a Victim Impact Statement‘.
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.
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.
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.