Victims of crime and the law
The Department of Justice and Equality takes into account the views of victims when framing or reviewing criminal law.
Some of the important laws that concern victims are set out in the Rules section below.
The Criminal Evidence Act, 1992
This Act makes it easier for witnesses to give evidence in physical or sexual abuse cases by allowing for a live television link with the court. In some cases, this Act forces the spouse of the accused to give evidence for the prosecution.
The Act makes it easier for children to give evidence by getting rid of
- the need to give evidence on oath
- the need for corroboration (previously, additional evidence confirming the evidence given by the child was needed)
- the wearing of wigs and gowns by barristers when evidence is being given by television links.
The Criminal Justice Act, 1993
This Act forces the court to consider the effect of a violent or sexual offence on you when it is deciding the sentence.
If you are a victim of a violent or sexual offence, you are also entitled to give evidence in court about how the crime affected you.
The Act allows the Director of Public Prosecutions to appeal lenient sentences and gives the court the power to force the offender to pay compensation to you for any personal injury or loss you suffered.
The Civil Legal Aid Act, 1995
Under this Act, the Legal Aid Board provides legal aid or advice to a complainant in certain criminal cases involving prosecution for a range of sexual offences, including rape, aggravated sexual assault and incest. A complainant is the person making the complaint.
The Board also provides legal advice in relation to criminal matters to alleged victims of human trafficking.
The Domestic Violence Act, 1997
This Act provides protection where there is a violent family member. There are two main kinds of protection available, a safety order and a barring order.
A safety order prohibits the violent person from further violence or threats of violence. It does not oblige the person to leave the family home. If the person lives apart from you it prohibits them from watching or being near your home.
A barring order requires the violent person to leave the family home. The order also prohibits the person from further violence or threats of violence, and from watching or being near your home.
Non-Fatal Offences Against the Person Act, 1997
This Act has updated and modernised the existing law relating to various forms of assault, threats to kill or cause serious harm, poisoning, false imprisonment and abduction of children. The Act has also introduced a number of new offences. The Act has measures dealing with
- Offences relating to violence or threats of violence involving syringes and/or blood
- The offence of harassment, which is aimed at what is commonly known as "stalking"
- Debt collection with threats or menaces
- Poisoning or the administration of substances intended to interfere with bodily functions
- The use of reasonable force in protecting yourself, your family and your property from criminal activity.
The Bail Act, 1997
This Act tightened up the bail regime.
Now a court may refuse bail to a person charged with a serious offence if it is likely that the person may commit another serious offence while he or she is on bail. In addition, the Act requires a court to impose consecutive sentences when an offence is committed on bail
The Criminal Justice Act, 1999
This Act deals with the protection of witnesses, including victims, who may have to give evidence in court.
It allows witnesses who are in fear or subject to intimidation to give evidence by a live television link:
It creates some new offences, including intimidation of a witness, a jury member or any person helping the Gardai with a criminal investigation. The penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment.
The Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Act 2008
This Act makes it an offence to traffick in adults or children for the purpose of their sexual or labour exploitation or the removal of their organs. In addition, it makes it an offence to sell or purchase (or offer to sell or purchase) any person for any purpose. It is also an offence to solicit or importune a trafficked person for the purpose of prostitution.
The Criminal Law (Defence and the Dwelling) Act 2011
This law provides that people are entitled to use reasonable force in defence of people and property if they believe that an intruder has entered their dwelling to commit a criminal act.
How to apply
For information about the legislation relating to victims, please contact the Department of Justice and Equality. Information is also available in the Victims and the law section of the Victims Charter (pdf).