Victims' rights - by country

Ireland

Content provided by:
Ireland

How and where can I report a crime?

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

What are my rights as a witness?

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

Can I receive legal aid?

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

More information

How and where can I report a crime?

You can report a crime by calling into, writing to or phoning the local Garda Station. You can also approach a member of An Garda Síochána who is on duty (on the street, in a police station, etc.). Contact details for your local Garda station can be found in the telephone book or on the online Garda Síochána Station Directory. You can dial 999 or 112 from anywhere in the country in the case of an emergency.

You should report the crime yourself as outlined above. However, if you have been incapacitated, someone else can report the crime on your behalf. If you would prefer to report the crime anonymously, you can phone An Garda Síochána’s confidential line on 1800 666 111. However, depending on the nature of the crime this may not be suitable in the circumstances.

In general there are no time limits for reporting a crime. For less serious offences (i.e. cases heard by the District Court with no jury and carrying a maximum prison sentence of 12 months for one offence) you have to make the report within six months from the date of offence to the instigation of criminal proceedings.

There is no special form required by authorities for the report. You can make your report through English. If you are not fluent in English, you can request an interpreter, which An Garda Síochána will provide free of charge.

When you report a crime, An Garda Síochána will take a written statement from you. You will be asked to supply:

  • your name, address and contact details;
  • a description of the incident (including location, date, time and a short narrative description of the crime) and
  • details of property missing or damaged, if applicable.
  • details of any physical injury.

An Garda Síochána will gather the evidence and investigate your report.

How can I follow up on what the authorities do after I report a crime?

When you report a crime, An Garda Síochána will provide you with details of the name, rank, phone number and station of the investigating Garda. You will also be given an incident reference number. You can use the reference number to follow up on your complaint. If you are the family of a victim of murder or unlawful killing, you will be assigned a Garda Liaison Officer, who will liaise with you throughout the case.

How can I be involved in the investigation of the crime?

In general, your only involvement will be to make a statement detailing everything you know about the crime. It is the responsibility of An Garda Síochána to gather the evidence and investigate the crime and keep you informed of any developments. Depending on the nature of your case, An Garda Síochána may ask you to participate in other aspects of the investigation (for example, to undergo a medical examination to gather evidence of physical injury or collect forensic evidence) if this could help your case. You may also be asked to identify the suspect in a line up. You can add to your statement to An Garda Síochána throughout the investigation process, if, for example, you think of something which you had forgotten in your previous statement.

It is important to remember that your role as a victim in Irish criminal proceedings is very limited. You do not have a special legal status as complainant in criminal proceedings. You may be called as a witness in proceedings. This means that, during the investigation stage and trial stage, your involvement in proceedings is fairly limited. If you are called as a witness, you need to appear at the trial.

If you do not speak fluent English, An Garda Síochána will provide you with an interpreter free of charge. You are not entitled to written translation of case documentation (no case documentation, apart from your statement, will be released to you).

If you are unhappy with the treatment you receive you can make a complaint about the conduct of An Garda Síochána at your local Garda station or by contacting the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission or Garda Ombudsman, for short. See Garda Ombudsman.

If you are a witness for the prosecution in a criminal trial, you should tell the investigating Garda dealing with the case what your expenses are and provide receipts where possible. For example, you may miss out on wages for the days that you are in court and you may incur travel and subsistence expenses to get to court. The Garda will then ensure that an application is made to the judge to have witness expenses paid. It is a matter for the judge to decide whether or not to make an order to reimburse witness expenses.

What are my rights as a witness?

An Garda Síochána may call you for an interview as a witness. In this case you may have to go to a Garda Station and make a statement outlining everything you know about the case.

In limited cases involving intimidation of a witness, the court may allow a witness to give evidence by way of sworn deposition or video evidence if the witness cannot attend court through fear of intimidation. An adult (age 18 and over) can only give evidence by video-link if the court allows you to.

The Witness Protection Programme is also available to you in circumstances where there is a serious threat to your safety. Under this programme, you as a witness and your family are provided with new identities, immunity from prosecution and the means to establish a new life in another jurisdiction. It is an offence to attempt to discover or reveal the identity of a relocated witness.

You can find more information in the booklet Going to Court as a Witness which is available in English, Irish and other languages.

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are a minor, you will be interviewed by a specially trained member of An Garda Síochána in a special interview suite.

If you are a witness under the age of 18 you may be able to give evidence via video-link or you may be questioned through an intermediary.

What information can I obtain from police or victim support organisations during the investigation of the crime?

When you report a crime, An Garda Síochána will provide you with details of the name, rank, telephone number and station of the investigating police officer. Following your report, An Garda Síochána issues a letter to you, which contains the number of the Crime Victims Helpline and a list of victim support agencies which can provide you with counselling, support and information. Most of these agencies offer their services free of charge.

An Garda Síochána will explain the investigation process to you and will endeavour to keep you up-to-date with any progress in your case, including whether an offender is charged or cautioned and tell you whether the offender is in custody or on bail and the conditions attached to it. Official communications are usually made by letter. You can request access to your own statement but no other documents will be released to you.

Can I receive legal aid?

An Garda Síochána will work with statutory and voluntary agencies to ensure that you and your family receive appropriate physical, psychological and emotional support and advice. Generally speaking, you are not entitled to any medical, legal or psychological assistance free of charge. However, you may be entitled to State funded civil legal aid in certain circumstances and you should contact the Legal Aid Board for a list of local law centres. The Legal Aid Board provides legal advice and representation to persons primarily in civil matters, including to persons who are victims of domestic violence. If, however, in a criminal matter, the defence seeks to introduce the prior sexual history of the victim in the course of a criminal trial the Legal Aid Board will provide legal representation free of charge to victims of rape. The Legal Aid Board also provides legal advice free of charge to complainants in respect of rape and other forms of sexual assault.

How can I get protection, if I am in danger?

If you are concerned about your safety and welfare at home, you can apply to the District Court for the issue of one of a number of orders to protect you. For example, a barring order can be issued to protect you in your own home. You can attend at the local District Court to apply for such an order or speak to a member of An Garda Síochána in such circumstances. You can also obtain advice from the Legal Aid Board.

Also, the Witness Protection Programme as detailed above under “your rights as a witness” protects witnesses who may be in danger.

It is open to the court to direct that the accused stay away from the victim or stay away from a certain place. Again, a member of An Garda Síochána can assist you in this regard.

In situations of domestic violence, refuge may be available from certain voluntary organisation (see http://www.cosc.ie/)

What services and assistance can I be given during the investigation of the crime?

You can access victim support. When you report a crime, An Garda Síochána will provide you with information about victim support services. Victim support agencies offer counselling, support and information, often free of charge, to victims of crime. You can also phone the confidential Crime Victims Helpline for information and support on Freephone 116006 or call-save 1850 211 407 (office hours are Monday 10.00 a.m. to 7.30 p.m., Tuesday to Friday 10.00 a.m. to 5.00 p.m. and Saturday 2.00 p.m. to 4.00 p.m.).

You can access victim support services, which are provided by voluntary agencies, usually free of charge. These agencies provide information, support and counselling. The Irish Tourist Assistance Service provides free assistance to tourists who have become victims of crime. They provide emotional support, translation services, embassy details and can arrange accommodation/ transport and address medical needs. They do not provide financial assistance or insurance/ legal advice.

If applicable to you, the following may also assist you:

  • If you have an intellectual disability, you will be interviewed by a specially trained police officer in a special interview suite. If you have a physical or mental disability An Garda Síochána will endeavour to provide for any of your special needs or requirements;
  • If you are a member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual or Transgender Community and are the victim of a homophobic attack, An Garda Síochána can refer to you a specially trained member of An Garda Síochána who can deal with your report;
  • If you are a victim of a racist incident, An Garda Síochána will inform you of the designated Ethnic Liaison Officer in your area. You will be interviewed by a specially trained member of An Garda Síochána, who can deal with your report.
  • If you have been the victim of a sexual offence, you will be interviewed by a specially trained police officer. Where possible, the services of a police officer and doctor of the same gender as you will be made available to you. An Garda Síochána have a specialist investigation unit in Dublin (Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Investigation Unit) and a special, fully equipped interview suite in Store Street Garda Station, Dublin;
  • If you are elderly, An Garda Síochána will take all possible steps to protect you and will advise you about home security and staying safe.
  • If you are a family member of a victim of murder or an unlawful killing, a specially trained Garda Liaison Officer will be assigned to you throughout the case.

You can receive medical or psychological assistance but you may be asked to pay for it unless you have valid health insurance. However, citizens of the 27 EU Member States, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland can benefit from the European Health Insurance Card. You can call the emergency units of hospitals at the European emergency number 112.

Are there opportunities to reach settlement/conciliation or to start mediation between the offender and myself?

Generally, there is no such provision in Irish law. However, if the crime you are a victim of is committed by a first-time offender who is under the age of 18 and the offender accepts responsibility for the offence, there are two alternative processes to the criminal justice system in which you can take part and are given an active role in a dispute:

  • An Garda Síochána can administer a process to caution the child rather than take him or her to court. The child may be placed under the supervision of a Juvenile Liaison Officer for a period of time. You may be invited to be present during a formal caution and your views will be taken into account.
  • Another process known as the Family Mediation Conference brings you and the young person together in a safe environment via a trained facilitator. Its purpose is to enable the young person to repair the harm caused by their offence. The procedure can be attended by you, the young person, your and his/her supporters (community representatives, family members, friends or relatives nominated by you or young person, and members of the community). If you would prefer not to attend, the facilitator can represent your views during the conference. During this process, an action plan for reparation will be agreed which may include an apology to you, financial or other reparation to you, or initiatives within the child’s family and community that might help to prevent re-offending. The court directs that this take place, often on the recommendation of the Probation Services. If the offender fulfils the conditions of the programme, the case may be closed.

For adult offenders who have accepted responsibility for the offence, the Probation Service may organise a meeting whose purpose is to enable the offender to repair the harm caused by their offence, but only in appropriate cases. There are at present two pilot mediation services in Nenagh, County Tipperary and Tallaght, County Dublin. It is envisaged that these will be extended to other areas in due course. You can attend with your supporter, the offender and his/her supporter, and members of the community. During the proceedings, an action plan for reparation will be agreed. The action plan may include an apology to you, financial or other reparation to you, or initiatives within the community that might help to prevent re-offending. The court directs that this take place, often on the recommendation of the Probation Services. If the judge is satisfied that the offender has fulfilled the conditions of the programme, the case may be closed.

How will my case continue after the end of the investigation?

After the investigation a decision whether or not to prosecute is made. In less serious crimes, An Garda Síochána may make the decision in the name of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). In serious crimes An Garda Síochána will send the case file to the Office of the DPP, who will consider the evidence and decide whether or not to prosecute the case. The DPP will take your views into account when making a decision whether to prosecute but will place the ‘public interest’ above your interests. You will have little or no contact with the prosecution team during this stage of proceedings and cannot discuss the case with them. It is always open to a victim however to correspond with the DPP. See Guide for Victims and Witnesses

An Garda Síochána will keep you informed, usually in writing, about any developments in the case, including about the outcome of proceedings.

When the DPP makes a decision not to prosecute, the reason is communicated only for the following offences: murder, manslaughter, infanticide, workplace fatalities, and fatal road traffic accidents occurring after 22 October, 2008. For more information you can read the booklet The Role of the DPP, available in English, Irish and other languages.

If you withdraw your report the DPP may either close the case or pursue it without your co-operation.

Can I appeal if my case is closed without reaching the court?

Generally, the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions is final. However, if it is decided that the case should be closed, you can submit a written request to the Director of Public Prosecutions for a review of the decision. A member of your family can also request a review. See booklet the Role of the DPP. If there is evidence to suggest that the decision was capricious, the decision can be reviewed by the courts. Alternatively, you may be able to initiate a private prosecution but only in very limited circumstances.

I am a foreigner. How are my rights and interests protected?

If you are a foreigner and you have suffered from a crime in Ireland you have all the rights described above.

An Garda Síochána will provide you with an interpreter free of charge throughout the proceedings.

If you are a tourist in Ireland, you can get free assistance provided by the (non-statutory) Irish Tourist Assistance Service to tourists who have become victims of crime. They will provide you with emotional support, translation services, and embassy details and can arrange accommodation/ transport and address medical needs. They, however, do not provide financial assistance or insurance/ legal advice.

If you are a victim of a racist incident, An Garda Síochána will inform you of the designated Garda Ethnic Liaison Officer in your area. You will be interviewed by a specially trained member of An Garda Síochána, who will deal with your report.

More information

  • Victims Charter 2010 – in English , Irish and six other languages.
  • The Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act 1851 – in English
  • Criminal Justice Act 1951 – in English
  • Statute of Limitations (Amendment) Act, 2000 – in English
  • An Garda Síochána Act, 2005 – in English
  • Criminal Justice (Administration) Act 1924 – in English
  • Constitution of Ireland (Bunreacht na hÉireann) – in English
  • Prosecution of Offences Act, 1974 – in English
  • Criminal Justice Act, 1999 – in English
  • Domestic Violence Act, 1996 – in English
  • Criminal Justice Act, 1999 – in English
  • Criminal Justice (Amendment) Act 2009 – in English
  • Children Act, 2001 – in English
  • Criminal Evidence Act, 1992 - in English
  • Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act, 2008- in English
Last update: 09/06/2015

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.

Feedback

Use the form below to share your comments and feedback on our new website