Director of Public Prosecutions
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is responsible for the prosecution of people charged with committing crimes in the State.
The Chief Prosecution Solicitor acts as solicitor to the DPP. Prosecution solicitors represent the DPP in all courts in Dublin and local state solicitors represent the DPP in courts outside Dublin.
What does the DPP do?
The Director of Public Prosecutions has several duties and is independent in the performance of their functions.
The DPP’s duties are to:
- Enforce criminal law in courts on behalf of the people of Ireland
- Direct and supervise public prosecutions on indictment in the courts
- Give general direction and advice to An Garda Síochána in relation to summary cases
- Give specific direction to the Gardaí in cases where requested
The DPP's Office is independent. The Government cannot order the DPP to prosecute or not to prosecute any particular case.
Who decides whether to prosecute or not?
The DPP decides whether to prosecute in serious criminal cases, such as murder, manslaughter, sexual offences, or fatal road incidents.
The Gardaí may prosecute less serious crimes, but they still prosecute in the name of the DPP who has the right to tell the Gardaí how to deal with the case.
If the DPP decides to prosecute
If the DPP decides to prosecute, the Gardaí charge the suspect in the case and bring them before the District Court. The suspect is known as ‘the accused’ or ‘the defendant’ from this point on.
The Gardaí then compile a book of evidence against the accused. The book of evidence includes:
- Statements from the victim and other witnesses
- A list of physical evidence that will appear in court, like photographs or weapons
- Evidence the prosecution thinks witnesses will give in court
- Other relevant documents
Once the prosecution has gathered all the evidence needed for the trial, it will give the book of evidence to the accused and the District Court will set a date for the trial.
Will I be told if the DPP decides to prosecute?
If you are the victim in the case, the Gardai will tell you if the DPP decides to prosecute and will keep you informed of developments. You will be told the time, date and place of the court hearing.
If the case relates to a sexual offence or a violent crime, the DPP will offer you a pre-trial meeting with the investigating Garda, the solicitor, and the barrister dealing with the case. You will be told about the trial process, but you will not be able to discuss witness evidence.
If the case relates to another type of offence, you can request a pre-trial meeting.
Can I be called as a witness?
If you have information about the crime, you can be called as a witness at the trial.
After the trial
When a court has found the accused guilty, it will decide on the sentence.
If the DPP considers the court sentence to be too lenient, it may appeal the sentence to the Court of Appeal. The DPP cannot appeal against a sentence given in the District Court.
If the DPP decides not to prosecute
If the DPP decides not to prosecute in a particular case, the reasons are given to the investigating Gardaí and are kept confidential.
The DPP’s office does not meet people to discuss decisions. You can read more information on the decision to prosecute.
Why would the DPP not prosecute?
The most common reason for deciding not to prosecute is a lack of evidence. The DPP needs to have enough evidence to convince the court beyond a reasonable doubt that a person is guilty.
There are some circumstances where the DPP may decide it is better not to prosecute despite having enough evidence, for example, if the offender is under 18 or is seriously ill.
Can I request reasons for the decision?
You can request a summary of the reasons for the decision not to prosecute if you are:
- A victim of crime, and the decision was made after 16 November 2015
- A family member of a victim in a fatal case, where the death took place after 22 October 2008
- A solicitor acting on behalf of either of the above
You must make your request within 28 days of the date you are told of the decision not to prosecute.
If the decision not to prosecute was made by the Gardaí, a victim can ask the Gardaí for a summary of the reasons for the decision.
Can I request a review of the decision?
You can request a review of the decision not to prosecute if you are:
- A victim
- A family member of a victim in a fatal case
- A solicitor acting on behalf of either of the above
Your request for a review must be submitted within 56 days of being informed of the decision, or within 28 days of the date of the summary of reasons letter if you asked for this.
How to request reasons or a review of the decision
To request a summary of the reasons for the decision not to prosecute, you must send a Request for Reasons form to the Victims Liaison Unit at the DPP office. You can download the Request for Reasons form (pdf), which is also available in Garda stations.
To request a review of a decision not to prosecute, you should write to the Victims Liaison Unit requesting the review. See ‘Contact’ below for the address for the Victims Liaison Unit.
You can find more information on how to request reasons and reviews on the DPP website.
If you have a query or complaint, you can write to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
You can read more about the Prosecution System in Ireland on the DPP website. You can find more information about how the DPP works in their publications section. You can also read more about the DPP in Section 6 of the Victims Charter (pdf).