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 the Garda Síochána (the Irish police), the courts, the Probation Service and the Director of Public Prosecutions. 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.
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
You can read more details about the information you should get on crimevictimsrights.ie.
What happens when I report a crime?
When you are reporting a crime, making a statement and being interviewed, you have the right to have a friend (or someone else you choose) 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.
If you have been a victim of a crime in another EU member state, you can report the crime to the Gardaí in Ireland, who should then forward the details of your complaint to the relevant law enforcement agency in the other member state.
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 service.
What are my rights while the crime is being investigated?
As part of the investigation, you may need to be interviewed (and possibly have a medical examination) but any necessary interviews and examinations should be kept to a minimum.
You have the right to ask the Gardaí to keep you informed about significant developments in the investigation. However, you are not entitled to get any information that could interfere with the investigation or put anyone in danger.
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 – a person who they think committed the crime. If this happens, you have a right to ask for a summary of the reasons for this decision.
In some other cases, either the Gardaí or the Director of Public Prosecutions can decide not to prosecute an identified suspect. Again, you have a right to ask for a summary of the reasons for this decision. You also have a right to ask for the decision to be reviewed and reconsidered. You can request a summary or review of a decision from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
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 are:
- 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
There is more detail on special protections and supports on crimevictimsrights.ie.
If the victim of a crime is under 18 years of age, there are special protections and supports available to them. Find out about special protections and supports for children.
What will happen in court?
You may be a witness at the trial of the case or you may wish to attend and watch the trial. If so, you may decide to use the Victim Support at Court service, which offers support, encouragement and companionship of trained volunteers to crime victims or witnesses when attending court.
The court can provide a video link facility for victims aged under 17 who are giving evidence in serious sexual or violent crime cases, as well as for vulnerable or intimidated witnesses.
You have the right to ask the Gardaí for the following information:
- When the court case you are involved in will take place
- Where it 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
You also have other rights that may apply in various situations. For example, 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.
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 ask for, and to be told:
- 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 will also find useful information on crimevictimsrights.ie, which lists a wide range of general and specialised support services that are available to victims of crime in Ireland and abroad. It also provides details about 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.
For additional guidance and support, contact the Crime Victims Helpline - see below: