For Young People & Families

Journey through the Criminal Justice System

A.S.S.C. has broken down the pathway from reporting the incident to the court outcome. The pathway has been broken down into eight signposts. This was done to provide our families and young people with some guidance through the judicial process.

Remember this is only a guide and every child’s journey is different. Your time within the Criminal Justice System is unique to you, with different pathways and different outcomes. A.S.S.C. is here to support you along with all the other professionals you will meet along the way.

If you have any questions, please contact us at

This is when the child/young person has experienced a crime.  While a child/young person may tell someone immediately after such an event, it is common for children not to report certain crimes until much later, maybe years later. It is important to remember that either is ok, and either is normal after experiencing such an incident. There are many factors why a child/young person may keep things to themselves.

You can get help here.

This is when the child/young person has come forward and told someone they trust, about what they have experienced. This is a difficult time for the young person and their family. Hearing a disclosure can have a lasting impact on a family. The child/young person must understand that this impact is not their fault. When child/ young disclose sexual abuse, it is important to listen to the child/young person, as it takes a lot of bravery and strength to come forward. Try not to quiz them by asking lots of questions. You will need to contact the duty social worker in your area and/or your local garda station.

Look at the links below

TUSLA – Where to Report

An Garda Síochána – Where to Report

The Victims Charter – Find the support you need when you become a victim of crime

A.S.S.C. support is available too. Contact us at

Forensic Support

Advocacy phone support

This is where you tell the Garda Síochána what happened to you.

If you are a victim of crime in Ireland, you are protected by certain laws. The main law, the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017 provides you with rights as a victim of a crime. The Garda Síochána have a victim information booklet that explains those rights. For example, you have a right to have your statement recorded with a specially trained Garda interviewer. This happens in a special interview suite designed to help young people and those that may be seen as more vulnerable feel more comfortable telling the Garda what happened. 

Why is this good? It means that when your case goes to trial (not all cases get here) your recorded interview will be played to the court. You may, however, be asked and perhaps challenged about what you have said. This is called cross-examination. It is a part of due process (a fair trial) and every witness must agree to be cross-examined, though not all witnesses are cross-examined. The defence lawyer decides who will be cross-examined.

This is the time spent by the Garda Síochána investigating your report that a crime was committed. When the investigation is finished the Garda sends the investigation file to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), who decides if the case goes to court.

This can last a long period of time, where families must wait for an outcome from the DPP and see if anyone will be charged with a crime.

Just remember that you have done a lot and have had several achievements.

  • You have told someone
  • You have been heard
  • You have kept yourself safe
  • You have kept other children safe
  • You have told your story to the Garda Síochána
  • A file of all the investigations made by the Garda, on the case, has been sent to the DPP.  This can take several months to come back from the DPP with an answer.

Who is the DPP & how can I contact them?

Find out more here and here

Read More

What answer can I expect next?

The investigating Garda is usually the person who tells you the decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

  1. The DPP will decide to prosecute any person they believe to have committed a crime. That person will be brought to the District Court and charged. They now become the accused person. The outcome of this will be a court date with the possibility of a trial. It can a long time to get a date for trial in the courts.


  1. The DPP will decide that they are not going to prosecute. This means that charges will not be brought and there will be no trial. This may be difficult to accept or understand. This does not mean that the DPP does not heard you. It often means that the DPP believes there may not be enough evidence to make sure the person is found guilty in court.

If the DPP decided not to charge a person

You can ask them why…..

When the investigating Garda tells you that the decision of the DPP is not to prosecute, the Garda should provide you with a “Request for Summary of Reasons” Form. You can send the completed form to the Office of the DPP, but you must do so within 28 days (4 weeks) of being told of the DPP’s decision.

You can also get a copy of the “Request for Summary of Reasons” Form here


If you are not satisfied with a decision not to prosecute you may apply in writing to the below address for a review of the DPP’s decision not to prosecute:

Communications and Victims Liaison Unit
Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Infirmary Road
Dublin 7.

Tel: (01) 858 8444 (direct line)

Fax: (01) 642 7406

 You must apply in writing and may apply up to 56 days (8 weeks) after you were told of the decision not to prosecute. If you applied for a Summary of Reasons not to prosecute, you must apply for a review of the decision within 28 days (4 weeks) of being provided with the Summary of Reasons not to prosecute.

At one of the court appearances, the accused is asked to plead guilty or not guilty

If the accused has said that they are not guilty, a trial will be organised for your case. This means a trial date will be set with a Judge, a jury, and witnesses.

If an accused person says that they are “guilty” there will be no need for a trial, and no one will need to testify. A new court appearance, called a sentencing hearing will be arranged (see point 8 below)

Preparing for trial

This is when you are preparing to come to the courthouse to testify. This can be a very anxious time. You may have waited a long time to get to this stage. This can be an emotional time. A.S.S.C. will provide you with a visit to the courthouse so you will be familiar with the rooms and some of the people, and we can answer all your questions.

A.S.S.C. is here to help at

Look at the links below, for more information

Forensic Support

Advocacy phone support

This is when you are due to come to the courthouse for the start of the case.

At A.S.S.C. we say you need five main elements to be in place for your case to start at the courthouse

  • You will need a Judge
  • You will need a courtroom for your trial
  • You will need a jury; they decide if the accused person is convicted or acquitted
  • The DPP will need to be ready have all the facts of the case (evidence) and all witnesses ready to go for the trial.
  • The accused person will need to be ready to defend him/herself

If one of these elements is not in place, your case may be adjourned (delayed), either by a few days or possibly a few months. This is can be difficult for families to hear. It is important to know that everyone is trying their best. The court is extremely busy.  Also, please remember that this is not your fault, it is one of the hard things about coming to court.

A.S.S.C. is here to help.

Forensic Support

Advocacy phone support

This is when the case has finished, it has got to the end, another achievement. This is when the jury has made its decision. The twelve members of the public who were chosen to be the jury have decided if the accused is convicted or acquitted.

Convicted: the accused has been found guilty and will be sentenced to a penalty at a later date

Acquitted: This means that the accused will not be receiving a penalty from the Judge and will be free to leave the courthouse.

Sentencing happens when either the accused pleaded guilty or has been convicted by a jury. The accused is now referred to as the convicted person. A date will be set to come back to court.

On that new date, if the accused pleaded guilty, a Garda will tell the Judge “the facts of the case”. This is a description of what happened to the child/young person.

If there was a trial and the accused person was convicted (found guilty), the Judge already knows what happened to the child/young person.

The child/young person and family may be asked to write a “Victim Impact Statement”. This is important evidence for the Judge when they are deciding on the penalty.  It also gives you and your family a voice to how this crime has impacted you. Please click here for more information:

Sentencing normally happens in two different phases, at different dates 

Sentencing 1: The Judge is told the facts of the case (plea of guilty). Professional reports are submitted to the trial judge about the convicted person (e.g. probation reports, medical reports, psychological/psychiatric reports). The child/young person’s and/or family’s Victim Impact Statement is given to the Judge.

Sentencing 2: The Judge tells the court the penalty for the convicted person and the reasons for the penalty. This often happens on a different to date to Sentencing 1 above.

Remember A.S.S.C. is here and can be contacted at

We can provide you with onsite accompaniment at this time

We are also available on the phone for ongoing support.

Forensic Support

Advocacy phone support

Resources online from Crime Victims Helpline

Useful videos from Crime Victims Helpline

What happens when someone makes a complaint?

What happens when a case goes to court?

Victims’ Rights

Special measures

What should I do if a child discloses abuse? Do’s & Don’ts

If a child discloses abuse, try the following below: Do’s

Stay Calm.

Try not to show your anger or shock or embarrassment. It will help the young person know that you are proud of them and have it in hand.


Take what they say seriously. Children rarely lie about abuse.

Reassure them.

They may feel responsible for or guilty about the abuse.


That it is not their fault, and that you’re glad they’ve told you.


Please do not press for details.

Disclose to the Authorities.

Tell the young person that you must tell someone to make sure they are safe. Contact your local duty social worker or Garda. You can follow the links below.

TUSLAWhere to Report

An Garda Síochána Where to Report


What they’ve said as soon as possible after the discussion. Record what they say word for word, using their words and descriptions.

If a child makes a disclosure of abuse, try the following below: Don’ts

Don’t tell a story about other people.

No one experiences abuse the same way.

Don’t promise to keep secrets

You will have to pass the disclosure on to the authorities.

Don’t tell them...

…that everything will be fixed straight away.

Don’t ask leading questions.

It is not your responsibility to investigate. Any questions should be for the purpose of clarification only.

Don’t tell any other volunteer

Or anyone outside of the Forensic Units and A.S.S.C. You should treat the information confidentially, sharing it only with persons who have a right to hear it.

Don’t make judgemental statements

About the abuser as the young person may still like or love them. Child sexual abuse can lead to complex feelings.

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