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Rights of defendants in criminal proceedings - Northern Ireland

These factsheets explain what happens when you are suspected or accused or a crime which is dealt with by a trial in court.  For information on road traffic offences, which are usually dealt with by a fixed penalty (fine), see Link opens in new windowFactsheet 5.

If you are the victim of a crime, you can find full information about your rights here.

Please note that these factsheets apply only to Northern Ireland.  If you want to know your rights in other parts of the United Kingdom, see the separate factsheets for England/Wales and Scotland.


Summary of the criminal process

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

  • Investigation by the Link opens in new windowPolice Service of Northern Ireland of whether a crime has been committed and who committed it;
  • Arrest, questioning and charging of the suspect;
  • Consideration of the evidence by the Link opens in new windowPublic Prosecution Service with a view to determining whether the suspect will be prosecuted;
  • Preparation for court;
  • Trial of the issues or a plea of guilty by the defendant (in the Crown Court for more serious offences and in the Magistrates’ Court for other offences);
  • Sentencing where the defendant has pleaded guilty or been convicted at trial;
  • Possible appeal.

Details about all of 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 general 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

Link opens in new window1 – Getting legal advice

Link opens in new window2 – My rights during the investigation of a crime

  • Investigation and arrest
  • Interview and charge
  • Court appearance before trial
  • Preparation of case before trial

Link opens in new window3 – My rights during the trial

Link opens in new window4 – My rights after the trial

Link opens in new window5 – Road traffic offences

Related links

Link opens in new windowCitizens Advice Bureau, Northern Ireland


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.

Last update: 25/02/2019