Courts

QUESTIONS 

Who will tell me about the court?
What court will my case be held in?
Who will prosecute the case in court?
Can I meet the prosecuting solicitor before the court?
What does it mean when they say that the case will be mentioned?
What is meant by the ‘Book of Evidence’?
Can I see what is in the Book of Evidence?
Can I see the other statements?
Can I see my statement before I go to court?
Can I take photographs of my injuries to court?
Can I bring someone with me to court?
Is there support available for me in court?
Can I claim expenses for attending court?
Can I have my own solicitor?
Can I give evidence by video link?
Will I be cross-examined?
How will I know if there is a guilty plea or not?
Do I have to go to court?
Can I talk to the judge?
Can I appeal the verdict of the court?
Can I appeal the sentence?
Can someone come with me to the Coroner’s court?
Can I ask questions at the Coroner’s court?

Who will tell me about the court?
The investigating Garda will tell you about the court process, and answer your questions.  The various Court Accompaniment Services will also give you information about the courts and in many instances will be able to show you the court-room in advance of the court sitting.

What court will my case be held in?
This depends on the type of offence.

  • If it is considered to be a minor offence it is likely to be heard in the District Court in the area where the offence was committed.
  • If the offence is of a more serious nature it is heard in the Circuit Criminal Court or in the case of murder, rape and certain sexual and other serious offences, these are heard in the Central Criminal Court.

Who will prosecute the case in court?
If it is held in the district court it will be prosecuted by a Garda, on behalf of the DPP.  If it is held in the Circuit Court or Central Criminal Court it will be prosecuted by the Chief Prosecution Solicitor’s office if it is in Dublin, or by the State solicitor (for the particular county) if it is held outside Dublin.

Can I meet the prosecuting solicitor before the court?
In cases involving serious crimes you will be able to request a meeting with the prosecuting solicitor and barrister prior to the court trial.  You should make this request through the investigating Garda. However, when you meet the prosecuting team ( barrister/solicitor ) they will not discuss the evidence you will be giving in the Court as this might be seen as  “coaching “.

What does it mean when they say that the case will be mentioned?
When a case is “ mentioned “ it can be for several reasons:

  • It can be that one of the parties (prosecution / defence) is looking to get a date for the hearing of the trial;
  • either party is seeking an adjournment of a hearing date already set by the Court.
  • Court list is too full.
  • Important witness for either prosecution or defence is not available.

There could be other reasons also, but these are the more usual reasons.

What is meant by the ‘Book of Evidence’?
This contains all the relevant statements and other documents, such as photographs, and any forensic evidence.

Can I see what is in the Book of Evidence?
No, you are not entitled to see the book of evidence.  You may see your own statement only.  The book of evidence is presented to the accused person and his/her legal representatives, and to the judge.

Can I see the other statements?
No, you cannot see statements made by other people.

Can I see my statement before I go to court?
Yes, you can have a copy of your statement and you can look over your statement at any time.

Can I take photographs of my injuries to court?
If photographs of injuries are to be presented in court they will have to be included in the book of evidence, and if not taken by a Garda they will have to be authenticated.  You should discuss this with the investigating Garda at the beginning of the case.

Can I bring someone with me to court?
Yes, the courts are open to the public and people may accompany you to court.  There are some exceptions, however:

  • the general public are not allowed to be present at family court hearings
  • in cases involving for example, sexual violence, the judge may order the court to be cleared. In that case only those who are involved in the case are allowed to remain.  However a person or persons accompanying you, the injured party, will usually be allowed to be present, if you request that.
  • in cases where the accused is under 18 years of age

Is there support available for me in court?
There are many services which provide court accompaniment, and these services are free and confidential.  You can contact Crime Victims Helpline for information on the various court accompaniment services.

Can I claim expenses for attending court? 
An Garda Síochána is responsible for payment of your expenses, if you are a witness in court.  You should discuss your expenses in advance with the Garda in charge of the case.

Can I have my own solicitor?
You can have a solicitor present in court, but the solicitor cannot speak on your behalf.  Your status in the court is that you are a witness to the crime.  The state prosecutes the crime on behalf of the people of Ireland.
An exception is recent legislation which allows that if you are a victim of rape you may be represented in court, if the defence is going to cross-examine you about your sexual history.  In this case the state provides a solicitor for you, through the Free Legal Aid scheme

Can I give evidence by video link?
There is a provision in law for video link for children and vulnerable witnesses.  However the video link facility is not available in every courthouse.  You should discuss your concerns with the investigating Garda well in advance of the court case.

Will I be cross-examined?
If the accused person pleads guilty the case will not have to be examined in court and you will not have to give any evidence.
If the case goes to a full hearing and if you are a prosecution witness, then it is very likely that you will be cross examined by the defence lawyer.

How will I know if there is a guilty plea or not?
The investigating Garda will inform you of this.  The accused person might not decide on a plea when first charged, and may wait to consult with a defence lawyer. S/he may also change the plea at any time, including on the morning of the court hearing.

Do I have to go to court?
If you have made a witness statement to the Garda and if the case if going to court, you are required to attend at the court case.  If you have any concerns about attending court then you should discuss these with the investigating Garda as soon as possible.

Can I talk to the judge?
You can request to address the judge, but it will be up to the judge to decide whether your request is allowed.

Can I appeal the verdict of the court?
No, you cannot appeal the verdict of the court.

Can I appeal the sentence?
No, you do not have any right of appeal.  The DPP however may appeal the sentence given by the judge, if he thinks the sentence is too lenient.  The DPP cannot appeal a sentence of the District Court.
Can someone come with me to the Coroner’s court?
Yes, it is a public court and people may accompany you there.

Can I ask questions at the Coroner’s court?
Yes, you are entitled to ask questions at this court.  You should talk to the clerk of the court in advance of the court date, and discuss your concerns and any issues that you want to raise.