The Legal System
In the Republic of Ireland, the Gardaí investigate sexual crimes. When they have completed their investigation, they will prepare a file which they will send to the DPP. This file will contain all the evidence gathered and a recommendation as to whether to prosecute.
In Northern Ireland, the Rape Crime Unit of the PSNI will investigate the crime. Whenthey have completed their investigation, they will prepare a file which they will send to the Public Prosecution Service. Again, the file will contain all the evidence gathered.
The Public Prosecutor's Office in Northern Ireland and the DPP in the Republic of Ireland will decide if there is enough evidence to take the case to court. Remember that this decision is not based on whether they believe you or not. It is based on whether they believe the case can be proven 'beyond reasonable doubt'. In the Republic of Ireland, if they decide not to prosecute, you have the right to ask for a review of the decision. If you do, a different lawyer will review the decision in the case.
- If your case goes ahead, a decision will be taken as to what the charge will be and which court it will be held in (district, circuit, or central criminal court in the Republic of Ireland or Magistrates' or Crown Court in Northern Ireland). Please click here if you wish to find out more about the rape and sexual violence laws in Ireland and Northern Ireland (English only)
- The police have a duty to keep you informed of the progress of your case. If a prosecution takes place, it may be many months or even years before it comes to court.
- If the person who assaulted you pleads 'not guilty', you may have to appear in court as a witness for the State. Your identity will be protected during and after the case. The defendant's identity will not be protected unless revealing his identity would cause your identity to become known (for example, in a case of incest). In these situations, when the case comes before the court only the people directly concerned with the case will be in the court room.
- In the Republic of Ireland only,you may be entitled to free legal advice and, in limited circumstances, to representation by your own barrister. See the Legal Aid Board. There is no exact equivalent in Northern Ireland, but it may be possible to get legal advice funded by the Legal Aid Board under the Green Form Scheme www.nilsc.org.uk. This advice is means-tested.
- You have the right, and it is a good idea, to meet the prosecution solicitor and barrister before the trial.
- You may have your supporters or a counsellor with you in court (provided the judge agrees).
- If the person who assaulted you is found guilty, you have the right to submit a Victim Impact Statement or to speak about the effect the crime has had on you before the judge passes sentence in the Republic of Ireland, while in Northern Ireland you may have a written Victim Impact Statement submitted to the judge before sentence (see the RCNI guides for victims and supporters about making a Victim Impact Statement)
- You have the right to be told when the person who assaulted you is to be released from jail.
- You may also be able to take a civil case against the person who assaulted you. It is important to get legal advice about this at an early stage as there are time limits involved. (The State takes 'criminal' cases on behalf of victims but you can also take a private, 'civil' case yourself against the person who assaulted you.