Generally, the prosecution of the defence decides which witnesses are to be called. Generally, it is not the judge’s role to call a witness.  A judge may call upon a witness in court to give evidence.  He may recall a witness so that the fairness of the trial is ensured.

An accused is entitled to put the prosecution to its proof.  He need not admit the offence.

The rules of evidence provide the circumstances in which the accused may or may be compelled to give evidence.  Generally, there is no obligation on an accused to give evidence.  No adverse inference may generally be taken from the failure of an accused to give evidence.  This reflects the broad right to silence.

A witness appearing as such in court may be compelled to answer questions. He is guilty of contempt of court if refused to do so.

If a witness refuses to attend or fails to produce documents, the judge may adjourn proceedings for a period and may by warrant commit the person to prison until such hearing or until such time as he complies with the terms of the order.

Although the prosecution has a general obligation to disclose evidence helpful to the defence, it is not obliged to summons witnesses which may be helpful to the defence,  if it chooses not to do so.  The defence has no procedure to compel witnesses to answer questions or assist him with investigations. They may be summoned as a witness to court.  See generally, the sections on the competence and compellability of witnesses.


Evidence must generally be given verbally in open court, on oath or under affirmation.  An oath involves the witness stating as follows:

I swear by almighty God that the evidence I shall give shall be the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

As an alternative, a person may make an affirmation. A witness, who has no religious belief or if giving evidence on oath is contrary to his conscience, may give up evidence by affirmation.

The Criminals Justice Act 2006  allows for witness anonymity in certain limited circumstances.  An application must be made to the judge for an order.  An order may be granted where the person has a medical condition and identification would be likely to cause undue distress and the order would not be prejudicial to the administration of justice.  In such circumstances, it is an offence to breach anonymity .

Giving false evidence under oath or affirmation constitutes the crime of perjury.  The person must know the materiality of the evidence and its falseness.

The court may admit evidence of a recording or transcript of a recording of the questioning of a person in a Garda station or elsewhere in connection with the investigation of an offence, A statement made that is recorded may be admitted notwithstanding that it was not taken at the time or not signed.


In criminal proceedings, a written statement signed, and duly declared to be subject to prosecution if false, may be admitted in evidence subject to certain conditions.  The conditions are that a copy of the statement is served and none of the other parties or their representatives objects within 21 days.  The party may always agree that evidence be admitted, and this is commonly done in respect of matters that are not seriously contested.

Notwithstanding the service of notice of a statement, the party offering the evidence, or the judge may require the witness to attend.

Admissions may be made for the purpose of waiving the requirement for proof as hearing.  Admissions should be made in writing and signed by the person concerned.  It may be signed by a legal representative.  An admission may be admissible as such.

Apart from this type of admission,  evidence may be given generally that a person has made a prejudicial admission against his interest on particular occasions and this may be tendered as evidence of the truth of the matter admitted.

Conviction or Acquittal

In the case of many summary offences, the particular statute law in relation to the offence may apply. The statute may reverse the burden of proof or deem certain matters to be proved, if certain other facts are first proved.

At the conclusion of the prosecution’s case, the defence may make a submission that there is no case to answer.  This is in effect a submission that even if the evidence is uncontested, every element of the relevant offence has not been proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If the judge is sol satisfied, he may direct an acquittal and the defendant does not need to offer a defence in rebuttal or way of defence.

As with any other criminal offence, a person may be convicted of a summary offence only if it is proved beyond a reasonable doubt. If sufficient evidence is raised against the accused which, if believed, would be sufficient to convict,  then the accused must in effect rebut it by offering evidence to the contrary.

Generally, once acquitted or convicted,  a person may not be recharged with the same offence.  This is the longstanding principle against double jeopardy. See the sections in relation to sentencing fines and punishments.


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