Crime scenes


When a serious crime is committed in Ireland, the Gardaí will usually seal off the area where the crime was committed. This is done to preserve the scene so a detailed forensic examination can be carried out. The Gardaí examine the crime scene to gather evidence that will help solve the crime.

The Gardaí have the legal authority to designate any place a crime scene under Part 2 of the Criminal Justice Act 2006 (Investigation of Offences).

What can the Gardaí do to preserve a crime scene?

What can the Gardaí do to preserve a crime scene?

The Gardaí have powers they can use to ensure vital evidence is not lost at a crime scene. These powers are only enforceable while waiting for a Garda of more senior rank (superintendent or above) to arrive at the scene and designate it as a crime scene. They can take the following actions:

  • Seal-off the crime scene using notices, markings or barriers
  • Direct people to leave or prevent them from entering the crime scene
  • Remove anyone who fails to comply with their direction to leave the crime scene
  • Permit any authorised person to enter the crime scene
  • Prevent someone from interfering with the crime scene or anything at the scene that could later be classed as evidence
  • Secure the crime scene from any unauthorised intrusion or disturbance
  • Search the crime scene and examine the scene and anything at the scene
  • Photograph or otherwise record the crime scene or anything at the crime scene

Direction to preserve a crime scene

The Superintendent’s direction to designate a place a crime scene can be given orally, but must be recorded in writing as soon as possible. This written record must contain:

  • A description of the place designated a crime scene
  • The date and time it was given
  • The name and rank of the Garda giving it
  • The grounds for believing that the direction is necessary

Crime scene time limits

A Superintendent’s direction officially designates a place as a crime scene. This direction lasts for 24 hours from the time it is given, if it applies to privately owned property and places. If the crime scene is in a public place, it is not subject to any time limit.

What happens if the 24 hours expires and the Gardaí are still examining the scene?

The Gardaí have two ways to extend the crime scene period.

They can apply to the District Court for an order to continue the direction for a further 48 hours. This can be done three times, which means the District Court has the power to extend a direction for a total of six days.

In exceptional circumstances, the Gardaí can apply to the High Court. The High Court can make an order for any period that it considers appropriate, the period will be specified in the court order.

You can object to the order, though it is unlikely the court will refuse to grant the order. However, the court may attach certain conditions to the order.

Penalties and offences relating to crime scenes

The Gardaí have absolute control over a crime scene. It is an offence to obstruct a Garda or fail to comply with the directions of a Garda when they are exercising their powers at a crime scene. You may be liable to a fine not exceeding €3,000, or imprisonment for up to 6 months or both. If the Gardaí reasonably suspect you of committing an offence relating to a crime scene, you can be arrested without a warrant.

Further information

You should get legal advice for more detailed information on this.

Page edited: 7 June 2022