Your rights as a victim of crime
Irish law defines a victim of crime as anyone who has suffered physical, mental or emotional harm or economic loss which was directly caused by a criminal offence. Family members are also victims if the death of their loved one was directly caused by a criminal offence.
If you are a victim of crime, you may come into contact with government agencies such as An Garda Síochána (the Irish police), the courts, the Probation Service, and the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). You have the right to receive information in simple, accessible language that you can understand when dealing with these agencies.
If you have special communication needs, these should be accommodated. If you speak a language other than English, you should be provided with an interpreter. You can also ask for written information to be translated so that you can understand it.
Your rights as a victim of crime are most clearly set out in the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 (as amended) (pdf).
What happens when I contact the Gardaí?
- How to report a crime
- The support services available to you
- How you can apply for compensation for your injuries
- What your role is in the criminal justice process
The Crime Victims Helpline has more information about the information you should get when you report a crime.
What happens when I report a crime?
When you are reporting a crime, making a statement and being interviewed, you have the right to bring a person of your choice with you for support. You can also have a legal representative (solicitor) with you.
However, the Gardaí can ask you to pick a different support person or legal representative if they think this is in your best interest, or if they think the person you picked could interfere with the investigation.
After you have reported a crime, you have the right to get a written acknowledgment of what you have reported. You will usually have the right to a copy of any statement that you made to the Gardaí. You can get this by asking the local Garda Victim Service Office.
Even if you don’t report the crime, you are entitled to access support services for victims of crime and to get information about these services.
What if I am a victim of crime abroad?
If you are a victim of crime while visiting another country, you should contact a local Irish embassy or consulate for support. Depending on the nature of the crime, you should also contact the local police. A local Irish embassy or consulate can assist you in dealing with the local police if necessary.
If you have since returned to Ireland, you can report the crime to An Garda Síochána who will forward this to the appropriate police service.
The Department of Foreign Affairs has further information on the role of embassies and consulates in supporting victims of crime abroad.
What are my rights while the crime is being investigated?
As part of the investigation, you may need to be interviewed and, depending on the nature of the crime, medically examined. Any necessary interviews and examinations should be kept to a minimum.
You can request information about significant developments in the investigation, such as the arresting and charging of a suspect, and the Gardaí are obliged to provide this information.
However, you are not entitled to get any information that could:
- Interfere with the investigation
- Endanger another person, or the security of the State
- Prejudice ongoing or future criminal proceedings
If any property is taken from you as part of the investigation, you should get it back without delay, if possible. However, if it has to be used as evidence in a criminal trial, you might not get it back until the court case is finished.
What are my rights if the investigation is stopped, or nobody is prosecuted?
Sometimes the Gardaí can decide to stop investigating a crime without identifying a suspect, or the Gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) can decide not to prosecute an identified suspect.
Where this happens, the Gardaí or the DPP will inform you of your right to request a summary of the reasons for the decision, a review of the decision, and the procedure for requesting a review.
Your request for a summary of reasons must be submitted within 28 days of being informed of the decision. 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.
If the Gardaí made the decision, you can write directly to the Superintendent or to the Garda Victim Service Office. If you have asked for a review, this will be carried out by a member of the Gardaí who was not involved in making the original decision.
If the DPP made the decision, you can write to the Victim Liaison Unit at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. If you have asked for a review, this will be carried out by somebody who was not involved in making the original decision.
The DPP website has more information on decisions not to prosecute.
Can I get special protection or support?
While the Gardaí are investigating the case, they will decide whether you need special supports or protections. When making their decision, they will consider (among other things) your personal circumstances and the type and circumstances of the crime.
For example, victims of certain crimes, such as human trafficking or violence in close relationships, are more likely to need special protection. Victims with a disability, or victims who have difficulty communicating, may also be identified as needing special protections.
You should let the Gardaí know if you think you have any special protection needs.
Some of the available special protections and supports include:
- Conducting interviews in a more suitable location
- Interviews being conducted by someone with specialised training
- Forbidding the public from attending the trial (though the press may still attend)
- Enabling a witness to give evidence to the court from behind a screen or over a video link from a different room
The Crime Victims Helpline has more information on the special protections and supports available.
If the victim of a crime is under 18 years of age, they are presumed to need special protections. The Crime Victims Helpline has information on the protections and supports available to child victims.
What will happen in court?
When the case goes to trial, you may be called as a witness or you may wish to attend and watch the trial. If so, you may decide to use the Victim Support at Court service. Trained volunteers offer support and companionship to crime victims or witnesses when attending court.
The court can provide a video link facility for victims aged under 18 who are giving evidence in serious sexual or violent crime cases, as well as for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
The Gardaí are obliged to provide the following information if you request it:
- When and where the court case will take place
- What the suspect (the defendant in the case) is being charged with
- If the defendant is convicted, the date they are due to be sentenced
If the defendant pleads guilty or is found guilty, you have a right to make a personal statement before they are sentenced. This is called a victim impact statement. It gives you a chance to describe, in your own words, how the crime has impacted you physically, psychologically and financially.
The court may consider your statement when it is sentencing an offender. At a later stage, the Parole Board may also take it into account if the offender has been imprisoned and is being considered for temporary release. In some situations, the judge may ask the Probation Service to prepare a victim impact report for the court.
You have the right to be informed about any final decision in a case and the reasons for the decision. However, you do not have a right to be given a reason in a case where a jury made the decision.
What happens when the offender is in prison?
When an offender is put in prison, a children’s detention centre or the Central Mental Hospital, you have the right to know:
- The expected date (month and year) of their release
- When they are about to be released or transferred
- If they have escaped
- If they die while in custody
Where can I get more information?
There are several documents on citizensinformation.ie, giving more information on compensation, supports and the law relating to victims of crime.
You can contact the Crime Victims Helpline for additional guidance and information, or visit their website which has details of support services available to victims of crime in Ireland and abroad. The Crime Victims’ Rights booklet (pdf) has information on where to complain if you feel that your rights have not been respected.
Further information regarding your rights and entitlements as a victim of crime is also available on the Victims Charter website.