Coming forward as a victim
Being a victim of crime, can be an upsetting and confusing experience. However, criminal justice bodies will treat you with respect and sensitivity. This page explains the justice process, from the time a crime is reported, and the support available to you.
Reporting a crime
No crime is too trivial to report. It might seem to be a minor crime but it can still be very upsetting. The police will take you and your case seriously.
If you are a victim of crime, or if you have witnessed a crime, you should contact the police as soon as possible.
Once you report a crime, the police will pass your contact details to Victim Support NI. Victim Support NI is an independent local charity, working with victims of crime or abuse.
They will contact you to offer help and support. If you don't want your name passed on, you should tell the police officer dealing with your case.
Even if you don't report the crime to the police, you can still contact Victim Support NI for help and support.
The police will investigate the crime you have reported and check what support you need.
The police may ask you to make a statement. To do this an officer will ask you questions to find out what happened. The police realise that talking about what has happened can be difficult.
The police will update you within 10 days and tell you whether a suspect has been identified. If there is no suspect or there is not enough evidence, they might close the investigation.
For less serious crimes, the police may deal with the case through ‘police discretion’. This means the case does not have to go to court.
If a person is charged with the crime they may either be released on police bail or detained in police custody.
Going to court
After the crime has been investigated, if the police send a file to the Public Prosecution Service (PPS), a prosecutor will decide whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to court and whether it is in the public interest.
In some cases, the prosecutor may decide against bringing a case to court. An alternative to prosecution, such as a caution, may be used.
The Victim and Witness Care Unit, of the PPS, will let you know the decision.
If the case is going to court, you can get information on how to make a victim personal statement. Victim Support will also tell you whether you have to give evidence at court.
Preparing for court
Depending on your age, you can get support from Victim Support NI’s Witness Service (for adults aged 18 or over) or the NSPCC’s Young Witness Service (if you are under 18). This may include visiting the court so that you have a better idea of what to expect.
The trial and giving evidence
You might not need to give evidence in court.
If you have to give evidence, the Victim and Witness Care Unit will tell you what's happening, what you need to do and to give you help and support.
If you have certain other needs, some extra help (known as ‘special measures’) may be provided if you want this and the judge agrees.
To read about special measures, go to:
To read more about what happens in a jury trial at court, go to:
Outcome of the trial
The Victim and Witness Care Unit will tell you about the verdict. If the defendant is found guilty, or pleads guilty, they will tell you about any sentence given and what this means.
Sentencing, probation and prison
If the offender who committed a crime against you has been found guilty and sentenced to time in prison, hospital or on probation you can register to receive and give information about them. This could be the offender’s release date or giving your views on temporary release applications.
The police and the Public Prosecution Service’s Victim and Witness Care Unit will give you information about the relevant victim information scheme.