Victims of crime and the law

Introduction

There are several laws that deal with the rights of victims of crime in Ireland. This document outlines some of these laws.

Relevant legislation

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 video link

Criminal Justice Act 1993

This Act forces the court to consider the effect of a violent or sexual offence on the victim 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. It also gives the court the power to force the offender to pay compensation to the victim for any personal injury or loss suffered.

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.

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:

  • Assaults
  • 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 menace
  • Coercion
  • Endangerment
  • 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.

Bail Act 1997

This Act tightened up the bail regime.

A court can refuse bail to a person charged with a serious offence if it is likely that the person may commit another serious offence while they are on bail. In addition, the Act requires a court to impose consecutive sentences when an offence is committed on bail

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 video link.

It creates some new offences, including intimidation of a witness, a jury member or any person helping the Gardaí with a criminal investigation. The penalty is up to 10 years imprisonment.

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 a trafficked person for the purpose of prostitution.

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.

Victims’ Directive 2015

The EU Victims’ Directive (Directive 2012/29/EU) establishes minimum standards on the rights, support and protection of victims of crime. The Directive aims to ensure that victims of crime receive appropriate information, support and protection and are able to participate in criminal proceedings.

It provides for information to be given to victims from first contact with the criminal justice agencies. It also means that a victim can request and receive additional information during the course of the investigation and court process. The Directive also provides that victims of crime are able to:

  • Receive an individual assessment to identify their specific protection needs
  • Access victim support services
  • Access protection
  • Enjoy safeguards in the context of restorative justice services
  • Enjoy privacy in the context of the criminal proceedings

A guide to the Victims’ Directive (pdf) is available on the JUSTICIA European Rights Network website.

Further information on the rights of victims is available on the European Commission website.

Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017

This Act transposes EU legislation on the rights of victims of crime into Irish law. It sets out the minimum rights, supports and protections for victims of crime, including:

  • The right to be given detailed information about the criminal justice system
  • The right to be given information on victim support services
  • The right to be kept informed of the progress of the investigation and any court proceedings
  • The right to have protection needs assessed and have measures put in place to stop further victimisation and intimidation
  • The right to be told of a decision not to prosecute and the right to ask for a review of that decision
  • The right to be given information in clear language and to have access to interpretation and translation services if needed

You can read more about these rights in our document Your rights as a victim of crime.

Domestic Violence Act 2018

This Act consolidates previous domestic violence legislation. It provides protection where there is a violent family member. The main kinds of protection available, are safety orders and barring orders.

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 does not live with you it prohibits them from watching or being near your home, or communicating with you (including electronic communication).

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 or communicating with you (including electronic communication).

You can read more in our document about Barring, safety and protection orders.

Further information

For further information about the legislation relating to victims of crime, you can contact the Department of Justice and Equality. Information is also available in the 'Victims and the law' section of the Victims Charter (pdf).

Where to apply

Department of Justice and Equality

94 St. Stephen's Green
Dublin 2
Ireland

Tel: (01) 602 8202
Locall: 1890 221 227
Fax: (01) 661 5461

Page edited: 23 January 2019