This glossary lists technical and legal words you might read on this website. Sometimes we might explain a word by using another word. For example, we explain “barrister”, and we use this word later to help us explain other words.



A person who is alleged to have committed a crime and is formally charged with a crime. If they are found guilty, then they will be called an offender or a convicted person. They are “alleged” to have committed the crime until they plead guilty or are found guilty after a trial.

Appropriate adult

If a victim is a child, the police can appoint an adult to stay with the child during court procedures. This person could be the child’s parent or any person over the age of 18 years. If the offender is a child, they may have an adult go with them to the trial as well. This person will also be appointed by the court.



Bail is when an accused is released from custody because they or someone else has promised that they will appear in court for their trial. Bail is based on the principle that the accused is presumed (accepted as) innocent until proven guilty.

Bail conditions

If an accused is given bail they will be given some conditions attached to that bail. For example, they may have to go to their local police station a few times a week to make sure they do not leave the country. This bail condition is called “signing on”.


A barrister is a type of lawyer who specialises in representing clients in court and giving legal opinions. The other type of lawyer who does not usually speak in court is called a solicitor.

Beyond reasonable doubt

This is the standard of proof for criminal trials in Ireland. If there is any reasonable doubt about who committed the crime, the accused cannot be convicted. It is a high standard.

Burden of proof

This is where the prosecution has to prove that the accused is guilty of the crime “beyond reasonable doubt”.



This is when a guilty verdict is reached, the offender is convicted of a crime and will be sentenced.

Criminal proceedings

Once someone is charged with a crime, criminal proceedings begin. This is the start of the case against them; however, it might take a long time for the case to come before a court for a trial. Criminal proceedings end when the final verdict is given or when the final judgment is given in an appeal.


After a witness gives their evidence to the barrister or side who called them as a witness in examination-in-chief, the other side can question them. Leading questions or questions that suggest an answer are allowed.


When an accused is kept either in a police station when arrested or in a prison until the trial. Accused people who are not given bail are kept or “remanded” in custody. They are also called “remand” prisoners.


Designated centre

This is a psychiatric centre where people with mental health conditions are treated. An offender might be found not guilty for reason of insanity and might be sent to such a centre. Also, if an offender has difficulties with their mental health, a judge might decide to send them to such a centre instead of a prison.

Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP)

This is the independent body that prosecutes crime on behalf of the people of Ireland. At the trial, the DPP will be represented by a solicitor and one or more barristers, depending on how serious the case is. This is called the prosecution or the State’s legal team.


This is the process in which the prosecution must disclose or give the defence all of the evidence they have in the case. This is so there will be a fair trial. Sometimes it delays trials as it can involve a lot of evidence if there is electronic or digital evidence.

District Court

This is the court that deals with most criminal incidents that are not that serious. Examples of these incidents include thefts, assaults and minor road traffic incidents. In this court, there is one judge and no jury. Trials at the District Court are much shorter than trials in higher courts. Sentencing might happen immediately after the guilty verdict. The maximum sentence is 12 months in prison or a fine.

Domestic abuse

This is abuse that includes physical or mental violence or violence in the home as well as coercive control. Coercive control is a pattern of behaviour by an abuser over a long period of time designed to achieve obedience and create fear.



This is either sworn testimony from witnesses or real items produced at trial (exhibits), such as a bullet found at a crime scene. There are different forms of evidence. Evidence could be physical items that the suspect or victim might have been wearing at the time of the crime, CCTV footage, or sworn testimony given in court by witnesses or victims.


When a witness goes into the witness box, the legal team who called them (prosecution or defence) will ask a series of questions so the witness can give their evidence. The barrister cannot ask the witness leading questions. A leading question is a question which suggests the answer to the witness. This is so the witness gives their own version of events. Sometimes some leading questions are allowed about facts that are agreed upon by both parties. After this process, cross-examination happens.


Guilty verdict

This is an outcome of a trial that means the accused was proven “beyond reasonable doubt” to have committed the crime. The next step after a guilty verdict will be the sentencing.


Hate crime


A hearing happens in court when a judge hears legal arguments from two sides. It is different from a full criminal trial. If there is an appeal there will be an appeal hearing, this is the process in the courtroom.

Hearsay evidence

Hybrid offences




This is someone who can explain the questions being asked to you when giving your evidence rather than you being asked questions directly by a barrister. They can make the questions easier to understand. You might need an intermediary if you are a child or a person with certain types of communication difficulties.


Leading questions

Leading questions are questions which suggest an answer.


Not guilty verdict

This is an outcome of a trial that means that the State has not proved the case against the accused. The jury or judge does not find that the accused did not commit the crime. They only consider whether the State has proved its case. There will be a not guilty verdict if the jury considered that there was not enough evidence to prove the accused committed the crime “beyond reasonable doubt”.



An offence is a crime that is against our law in Ireland. An accused is charged with a criminal offence that they are alleged to have committed. They will be called an offender if they plead guilty or are proven guilty after a trial.


The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (which will soon be renamed the Office of the Police Ombudsman) is responsible for investigating complaints made about police officers. It is the complaints body where you can make a complaint if a police officer commits a crime. They will investigate it and have the same powers as police. All the rights explained on this website are the same if you complain to the police or to the police Ombudsman. You have all of the rights that all victims of crime have.



Parole is a decision to release an offender from prison before the end of their sentence if they promise good behaviour. This release can be permanent or temporary and the decision can be reversed at any time.

Parole Board

This is a group of people who decide whether or not a prisoner should be released from prison on parole. They are independent of the government or any other bodies or political parties.

Probation Service

If a court convicts someone of a crime, the judge may order that the offender is supervised by a probation officer from the probation service for a period of time. The probation service works with offenders to help change their behaviour.


The prosecution is a legal team of people representing the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) or the State bringing criminal proceedings against an accused person. The prosecution presents the case at trial.

Protective measures

These are actions taken to keep you safe during the criminal proceedings. Here are some examples:

  • Limiting or preventing you from having contact with the offender or another person acting on the offender’s behalf
  • Protecting you from being victimised again, being targeted for revenge or being intimidated
  • Getting advice on how to keep yourself safe and your property safe and advice about protection orders under the Domestic Violence Act 2018 if you are a victim of domestic abuse.




The aim of a criminal sentence is not just to punish or to deter or stop people from committing crimes but also to rehabilitate them. This is so that they do not offend again when they are released from prison and so they can fit back into society. Rehabilitation includes re-educating and retraining offenders.


When an accused person is not given bail, they are kept or “remanded” in prison. They are also called “remand” prisoners.


This is where an offender was given a prison sentence (not a life sentence) and is released before the end of the sentence. Prisoners are released after 75% of their sentence if they do not commit a crime in prison. This is usually referred to as “standard remission” of 25%. So, if an offender was sentenced to four years, they will be released after three years. However, offenders can be released with more than 25% remission, up to 33% or one-third of their sentence for good behaviour.


This is the action of making up for a wrong one has done, for example, a crime. An offender might make a financial reparation to a victim if a court compensation order is made by the judge.

Restorative justice

This process focuses on addressing and repairing the harm caused to you as the victim of a crime rather than punishing the person who committed the offence for the laws that have been broken. It is a voluntary process where you meet with the person who committed the crime or communicate with them indirectly. You get a chance to tell the person who committed the crime how the crime made you feel and affected you. The person who committed the crime will have a chance to apologise if this is what you are seeking and if they want to do so. The goal of restorative justice is to resolve matters arising from the crime in a structured, safe way that helps meet all parties’ needs and prevents the harm from reoccurring.



A criminal sentence is the penalty (punishment) that the judge decides the convicted person should receive for their crime. A sentence could be a prison term, a fine or a community service order or another alternative to prison.


This is a type of lawyer who prepares the case for court and sits facing the barrister.

Standard of proof

The standard of proof in criminal trials in Ireland is “beyond reasonable doubt”. This means that the prosecution must prove their case leaving no reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury or the judge. If there are any reasonable doubts as to whether the accused is guilty or not, the jury or judge must find the accused not guilty.


These are arguments given to the court. These arguments can be legal or factual. Submissions can be said openly in court, these are oral submissions. Submissions can be made in writing. These are called written submissions. For example, at an appeal, each side will make written submissions in advance and probably oral submissions in court at the hearing. A victim can make a form of submissions to the court in writing when a person is being sentenced – as a Victim Impact Statement – or at that person’s parole hearing.




When a witness or victim or accused person is questioned in the courtroom in front of the judge and/or jury (if it is a serious crime), what the person says in the witness box is called their “oral” testimony.


If you are the victim of a crime, it can have a very strong emotional and psychological effect on you. It can be traumatic. Trauma is how a person responds to a distressing experience like a crime.



This is the decision made by the jury in a case (guilty or not guilty). Juries do not give reasons for their verdict. Sometimes, a jury is unable to reach a verdict. If this happens, there might be a re-trial with a new jury. If the case is in the District Court for a less serious crime, the judge decides on the verdict.

Victim Impact Statement

At the sentencing stage, you can write a statement on how the crime impacted your life if you want to. If you do, the judge must consider this when deciding on the sentence.



This is a person who witnessed the crime or who has evidence relating to the offence. A victim of a crime might be called as a witness to give evidence in court, or oral testimony.

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