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Prosecution

Following investigation, and often with advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), the police decide whether or not to lay charges.

All criminal cases will be dealt with in court. A person who has been charged with an offence will first appear in the Magistrates Court. Serious criminal matters will then be sent to either the District or Supreme Court .

However, in some cases, the accused person will plead 'guilty' and the matter will be finalised quickly without the need for a victim of crime or witness to give evidence.

Where the person charged pleads 'not guilty', a trial will be held and victims of crime and witnesses will generally be required to give evidence in court.

The Victim Support Service can arrange support (link to Support Services/Court Support) for victims in court during the trial.

Decision to prosecute

If the police decide to prosecute, they will forward witness statements and other relevant information to police prosecutions. Initially, the matter goes to the Magistrates Court.

The DPP will review the evidence and decide whether the charges can be sustained or different charges laid. If the decision is to proceed with charges, the DPP will take over the prosecution from the police.

Generally the DPP will prosecute the matter if:

  • there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction
  • it is in the public interest to do so.

If you make a formal statement to the police, you become a witness to the crime and the police or the Director of Public Prosecutions decides whether they have enough evidence to press charges.

If the DPP decides that the case should not proceed because there is insufficient evidence, or for other reasons, this will be discussed with the victim of the crime as soon as possible.

Wherever possible, the DPP will take into account the views of victims of crime if substantially reducing or discontinuing charges.

How long will it take?

Sometimes an accused will plead 'guilty' when the matter first appears in a Magistrates Court. These matters are then fast-tracked to the District or Supreme Courts for sentencing and may be completed within a few months.

Otherwise, a matter can take up to 12 months to get to trial if the charges are defended.

Withdrawing charges

A person who has been charged with an offence, may for a variety of reasons, have the charges withdrawn in court.

The reasons could vary from the complainant not wishing to proceed or new evidence which may weaken a case resulting in the unlikelihood of a conviction.

Last updated: 18-Feb-2013

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