Legal aid provisions apply to an accused in relation to proceedings in the District Court in indictable offences.

In Public

The general position is that proceedings in the preliminary pre-trial phase in the District Court are to be conducted in public.  The court, conducting the proceedings may because of the nature of the circumstances of the case or otherwise in the interests of justice, if it considers that it is desirable to do so, may exclude the public during the proceeding or any particular person or persons other than bona fide representatives of the press. Parents, relatives, friends of the accused or an injured party may remain subject to the provisions of other powers of exclusion.

Reports shall not be published or broadcast regarding proceedings in the pre-trial phase, other than a statement of the fact that the proceeding or charge has been brought against a named person and decision resulting from the proceeding.  In the case of an application for a dismissal of the charge against the accused, only information the Judge permits to be published or broadcast at the request of the accused may be published.

Compelling Witnesses

The trial court may in relation to a trial of the accused, make an order requiring the person whose statement of evidence was served on the accused or whose deposition was taken, to attend before the trial court to give evidence and to produce to that court any document or thing specified in the order.  Disobedience to the order constitutes contempt of the trial court.

If on application by the prosecutor or the accused, the trial court is satisfied by evidence on oath that a person is unlikely to comply with a witness order, the Court may bind the person by recognisance to appear at the trial.  If he refuses to be so bound, he may be held pending the trial.  The Court may exercise other remedies to compel attendance.

On application by the prosecutor or accused, a summons may be issued by the trial court requiring a person to whom the summons is directed to attend to give evidence at the trial and produce to that court, any document or thing specified in the summons unless the Court is satisfied that the person proposed to be summonsed cannot give material evidence or produce material documents or other material evidence.  The person who disobeys a witness summons without just excuse is guilty of contempt of Court.

Changing Charges

Where the accused has been sent forward for trial, the indictment against the accused may include either in substitution for or in addition to counts charging the offence, any counts that are founded on any of the documents served on the accused and which may lawfully be joined in the same indictment.

Where the accused has been sent forward for trial, the indictment may with the consent of the accused and notwithstanding other enactments, including counts that charge an offence justiciable within the State other than the offence for which the accused was sent forward and not founded on the document served.

A Court may make correct any defect in the charge against the accused unless it considers that it would result in an injustice.

Notice of Alibi

In a trial on indictment for an offence, the accused shall not without leave of the Court, offer evidence in support of an alibi unless before the end of the prescribed period, he gives notice of the particulars of the alibi.  The accused shall not without the leave of the Court call any person or give evidence in this regard, unless the notice includes the name and address of the witness or if it is not known, any information in his possession that may be of material assistance in finding the witness.

If the name or address is not included in the notice, the Court must be satisfied that the accused, before giving notice took and thereafter continues to take reasonable steps to secure that the name and address would be ascertained, provided that the name and address were subsequently discovered, notice of it is immediately given and provided that if the accused is notified on behalf of the prosecution that the witness has not been traced, he immediately gives such information which is then in his possession or subsequently received.

The Court shall not refuse leave above, if it appears that the accused was not informed of the requirements of the section by the District Court or the trial court to which he was sent forward for sentence.

Evidence tendered to disprove an alibi may be, subject to directions of the Court as to the time it is to be given, be given before or after evidence in support of the alibi.

Evidence in support of an alibi is evidence tending to show by reason of the presence of the accused at a particular place or in a particular area at a particular time, that he was not or was unlikely to have been at the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed.

Send Forward to Circuit Court

A person pleading guilty to an offence may be sent forward on a signed plea of guilty for sentencing before the trial court.  This does not apply to certain very serious offences.  The District Court must be satisfied that the person charged with the offence wishes to plead guilty and understands the nature of the offence and the facts alleged.

Where a person is sent forward for a sentence under the provision, he may withdraw his written plea and plead not guilty to the charge.  In this case, the Court is to enter a plea of not guilty and the matter shall proceed to trial.

The accused may be sent forward to the Circuit Court or in the case of offences within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Central Criminal Court, to that court. The jurisdiction of the Circuit Court shall be exercised by the Judge of the circuit in which the offence has been alleged to be committed or in which the accused person has been arrested or resides.

Where a person is sent forward for trial for an indictable offence, the indictment may contain a count of having committed any offence triable summarily with which the person has been charged and which arises out of the same set of facts.  If found guilty on that count, he may be sentenced to a punishment that could have been imposed, had he been convicted summarily of the offence concerned.

Transfer of Trial

A judge of the Circuit Court may transfer the trial to another place in a circuit where it is required by law to be held or to any other place in that circuit.  In that event, the trial shall be held at the place where it is transferred with a jury drawn from the jury district or other area prescribed for trials by the Circuit Court sitting in the other place.

An order of the judge of the Circuit Court under the above provision may only be made on the application of the DPP or the accused.  It may provide for ancillary matters.

Where a person has been returned for trial to the Circuit Court sitting outside Dublin, the judge of the Circuit Court may on the application of the prosecutor or accused if satisfied it would be manifestly unjust not to do so, transfer the trial to the Circuit Court sitting within the Dublin Circuit.  This decision is final and unappealable.

Where two or more persons are sent forward for trial to the Circuit Court outside Dublin and it is proposed to try them together, and an application is made by one or more but not all of the accused which is granted, on application by the prosecutor to the Judge who granted the application to have the trial of one or more of the remaining accused transferred to the Dublin Circuit shall be granted.

Central Criminal Court

The Central Criminal Court has exclusive jurisdiction in respect of

  • treason,
  • murder,
  • attempted murder,
  • conspiracy to murder,
  • piracy
  • genocide or any attempt conspiracy or incitement to commit genocide;
  • certain offences under the Geneva Convention;
  • a person indicted for rape offence or an offence of aggravated sexual assault or attempted aggravated sexual assault or aiding in abetting, counsel or procuring the same or incitement of the same;
  • a person charged cartel offences under the Competition Act.

The jurisdiction also applies to offences by an accessory before and after the fact.

There is provision for transfer of proceedings from the Circuit Court to the Central Criminal Court.


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