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Defendants (criminal proceedings)


These factsheets explain what happens when a person is suspected or accused of a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court. For information on minor road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty like a fine, go to Factsheet 5. If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

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Summary of the criminal process

The following is a summary of the normal stages in the criminal process

  • A person suspected of involvement in a crime may be questioned by the police. The police are responsible for the investigation of crime.
  • The suspect may be arrested on the strength of a judicial warrant except in the case of a flagrant offence.
  • Before police questioning the suspect must be informed of the right to communicate with a lawyer and must be cautioned.
  • At the conclusion of the investigation if incriminating evidence emerges against the suspect he/she is formally charged by the police. In serious criminal cases the decision to prosecute is taken by the Attorney-General.  This power of the police is always under the overall instructions of the Attorney–General who has the power under the Constitution to institute, conduct, take over and continue or discontinue any criminal proceedings.
  • A charge-sheet setting out the offence(s) is submitted by the police to a district judge for approval. If approved, the accused is summoned to appear before the court on a specified date.
  • Criminal cases depending on their gravity can be tried: (a) summarily by a single judge of the district court where the offence was committed, (b) on information by the Assize Court composed of three district court judges and presided over by a president of a district court.
  • In summary proceedings, on the date the accused is summoned to appear before the court he/she answers to the charge(s) by pleading guilty or not guilty. In cases which are tried by the Assize Court on the appointed date a preliminary inquiry is held before a district court judge. A preliminary inquiry may be dispensed with if the Attorney-General certifies that it is unnecessary. The practise nowadays is to dispense with the holding of a preliminary enquiry.
  • The victim of a crime has the right to hold a private prosecution.
  • The Attorney-General has overall responsibility for criminal prosecutions including the right to discontinue a prosecution.
  • There is no trial by jury in Cyprus.
  • If the court on enquiry determines that the accused is unfit to plead because of mental disturbance or incapacity the court may make an order for his/her treatment at a mental institution.
  • The accused may raise preliminary objections to the charges for: (a) lack of jurisdiction, substantial or territorial, (b) previous acquittal or conviction for the same act(s), (c) pardoning of the offence(s), (d) incompleteness or duplicity of charges.
  • More than one person may be charged in the same indictment for related criminal conduct. If this is considered unfair the court may order that the charges should be divided for the purposes of the trial.
  • The trial commences with the prosecution evidence.  At the close of the prosecution case the court determines whether the accused has a case to answer. If so the accused is called by the Court to make a defence and is informed of his/her right to remain silent or make a statement from the dock or give evidence under oath. The accused may at all times call evidence in his/her defence. No adverse inferences can be drawn from the exercise of the right to silence. Once the defence case is closed the parties make their final submissions and the court delivers its judgement.
  • All witnesses who give sworn evidence in court may be cross-examined.
  • The trial process must adhere to the norms of a fair trial. The presumption of innocence operates throughout the trial. The burden of proof is at all times on the prosecution. If at the end of the trial the court is not certain beyond reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused he/she must be acquitted.
  • If the accused is convicted, the sentencing process follows.

Details about all these stages in the process and about your rights can be found in the factsheets. This information is not a substitute for legal advice and is intended to be for guidance only.

Role of the European Commission

Please note that the European Commission has no role in criminal proceedings in Member States and cannot assist you if you have a complaint. Information is provided in these factsheets about how to complain and to whom.

Click on the links below to find the information that you need

1 - Getting legal advice

2 - My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Arrest and search

3 - My rights during the trial

  • Modes of punishment

4 - My rights after the trial

5 - Road traffic offences


Related links

The Law Office of the Republic of Cyprus

The Supreme Court of Cyprus

The Cyprus Police

Last update: 16/11/2020

The national language version of this page is maintained by the respective Member State. The translations have been done by the European Commission service. Possible changes introduced in the original by the competent national authority may not be yet reflected in the translations. The European Commission accepts no responsibility or liability whatsoever with regard to any information or data contained or referred to in this document. Please refer to the legal notice to see copyright rules for the Member State responsible for this page.