Victims' rights - by country

Northern Ireland

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Northern 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?

If you have suffered from a crime in the United Kingdom you can report it to the enforcement body responsible for this type of crime. For most crimes (e.g. theft, assault) this will be the police.

Depending on where the crime was committed you can report it by calling or going in person to the nearest police station in Northern Ireland. In urgent cases you can dial the emergency number 999 or 112.

If you are an asylum seeker or a refugee, you can also contact one of the One Stop Services, which will help you to find the nearest police station and can arrange an interpreter free of charge if you need one.

If you do not feel comfortable to report the crime yourself you can ask another person to report it for you or file an anonymous report to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or by filling in their online form.

More detailed information about how to report a crime to the police is also available online at the Police Service of Northern Ireland’s website. This site provides some information in alternative languages.

Crimes are usually reported in English. If you do not speak English you can report the crime in your own language or any other language you understand. Translation services will be provided free of charge, if necessary.

In the report you have to include all relevant details about the crime, the person you think committed the crime (if known), and relevant personal details (e.g. your name, address, and other contact details).

There is no obligatory form you have to follow. The police officer to whom you report the crime will record it on a special form.

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

You will receive the reference number of your report and you can use it to follow the progress of your case. You can check what is being done on your case by going to the police station or calling by phone.

You are entitled to be contacted by the person dealing with your case at regular intervals to update you on the investigation (or a decision not to proceed with, or end an investigation; or not to prosecute the offender) and the details of any trial. If you require further information you can call using the non emergency 101 number. You can also go to the police station but, if doing so without an appointment, the person dealing with your case may not be available.

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

You may wish to make a Victim Personal Statement (1), in which you can detail the financial, emotional, physical and psychological impact of the crime on you (and, where applicable, your family). You can do this when reporting the crime or at any time thereafter.

Depending on your needs you will be provided free of charge with an interpreter, medical examination, and other services. However, this does not include legal advice and/or representation as the victim is not a party to the proceedings.

During the investigation you are entitled to regular up-dates on progress, and to be told of any arrests. Any further involvement in the investigation is at the request of the police (e.g. responding to additional questions or participation in an identity parade).

If you are worried about the defendant being given bail, you should inform the Public Prosecution Service so that they are aware of this when determining whether to oppose a bail application or not.

You are not specifically entitled to representation by anyone. However, if you choose to instruct a lawyer (which will be at your own expense) to put information or arguments before the authorities they will generally take such representations into account.

You will be informed when formal charges have been brought against a suspect and it is possible to put points to the prosecution service. However, the decision to prosecute is for the Public Prosecution Service to decide after considering the evidence and if it is in the public interest to do so.

Expenses incurred at this stage are not generally reimbursed.

What are my rights as a witness?

During the investigation the police may ask you to give a witness statement. Usually you will be invited to tell what happened and the police officer will write an account of what you have said. Then you will be asked to verify if your statement was recorded correctly and sign it.

If you are providing a statement, the police will carry out an assessment of your needs as a witness. This will cover when and how you can be contacted and what language and communication needs you may have. The police will also assess whether a communication specialist (called a Registered Intermediary) might help you to give your statement or whether your witness statement will be video recorded.

Your witness statement may be used as evidence in court in certain circumstances such as if your evidence is not being challenged by the defence but you may be requested to give evidence at the hearing in person.

I am a minor. Do I have additional rights?

If you are a child under 18 years of age you are able to receive enhanced support and assistance in giving evidence in court if you are required to do so.

You will be referred to the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service, who will give you further support.

Your witness statement will be video recorded unless you ask to make a written statement. However, you may still be required to attend court to be questioned about your evidence.

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

When you report a crime to the police you will be asked if you wish to receive follow up contact form the police.

You will be asked if you wish to receive further information (e.g. about prosecution decisions and court proceedings). The police will keep you regularly updated on progress during the investigation for example about the suspect's arrest. You will be informed on the conclusion of the investigation (e.g. whether the defendant has been charged or cautioned).

For further support you will be referred, to Victim Support Northern Ireland.

Where applicable you will also be referred to other specialist services (e.g. the Sexual Assault Referral Centre in relation to sexual assualt. A 24hour helpline is also available to victims of domestic assault or sexual assault on 0808 802 1414).

Can I receive legal aid?

Anyone can make an application for legal aid. However, whether it is granted or not will depend on the nature of the case, your status in it and a financial assessment. Witnesses are generally not “parties” to a case in a legal sense and generally do not have a legal representative. So unless a particular application (such as a judicial review) is being made as a side issue in the case, it is unlikely that an application for legal aid would be made.

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

You and anyone else with whom you have a close relationship and believe yourselves to be at risk as a result of having reported a crime should report your concerns to the police. The police will make an assessment and, where necessary and reasonable, bearing in mind the level, probability and immediacy of the risk, take steps to reassure and safeguard those at risk.

Protective measures can take different forms, e.g. regular patrols near your home, or an alarm that will ring in the local police station. Only in the most serious cases are more drastic protective measures taken (such as anonymity during trials or witness protection programmes).

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

If the allegation is a police matter, you will be referred to Victim Support Northern Ireland, who will contact you to further support and guidance as appropriate.

Where applicable you will also be referred to other specialist services (e.g. in relation to domestic violence or sexual assault).

Services are free of charge.

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

The police and the prosecution service will consider diversion from prosecution, if the offender is under the age of 18 years. If a diversionary Youth Conference is decided as appropriate diversionary action you, as the victim in the case, will be contacted and invited to participate. This type of formal Youth Conference is supervised by professionally qualified staff in the Youth Justice Agency. Equally, you will be invited to participate if the court orders a youth conference.

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

Once the police have completed the investigation, the case will be passed to the prosecution service. The public prosecution service will examine whether there is enough evidence against the defendant and whether it is in the public interest to prosecute him/her. If the public prosecution service decides that a prosecution should go ahead the suspect will be charged, or served with a summons, and the case will go to court.

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

You can request that the PPS review a decision not to prosecute. Where no additional evidence is provided this will be done by someone other than the person who took the original decision.

You can also ask the High Court to review the decision. It is very difficult to succeed in this process (which is known as “judicial review”) because the High Court will not substitute its view of the preferable course of action for that of the decision-maker. It will only make a ruling against the decision-maker if it decides that the decision was completely unreasonable (as distinct from undesirable). Even if the victim succeeds, the court will not order that the prosecution go ahead. It will, instead, order the decision-making organisation to review its decision in the light of the court’s findings. If you are considering this course of action you will need legal representation. Legal aid is available in some circumstances, but only if stringent criteria are satisfied (particularly concerning financial circumstances).

In rare cases some people pursue a private prosecution. Such prosecutions can be taken over and continued or discontinued by the Director of Public Prosecutions.

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

If you are a foreigner you have all the rights listed above.

In addition, if you do not speak English the authorities will endeavour to ensure that a translation or interpreter is provided where information is given to you if this is necessary.

More information:

  • Victim Charter: a charter for victims of crime
  • A Guide to Northern Ireland’s Criminal Justice System for Victims and Witnesses of Crime – in English
  • A Guide to Northern Ireland’s Criminal Justice System for bereaved families and friends following murder or manslaughter – in English
  • Crime, justice and the law section of the NIDirect Website – in English
Notes:

1. Victim Personal Statement
The Victim Personal Statement is a written statement, in which you can explain how the crime has affected you. In the Victim Personal Statement you can explain how the crime has affected you physically, emotionally or financially, whether you feel vulnerable or intimidated, etc. The Victim Personal Statement is not used to determine guilt or innocence but to inform the court of the harm caused to the victim.
You can make your Victim Personal Statement at any time before the court hearing.
Last update: 14/03/2019

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.

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