What criminal matters does the Circuit Court deal with?
The Circuit Court hears criminal matters triable on indictment, except for certain serious crimes which are tried in either the Central Criminal court or the Special Criminal Court.
Most indictable offences are dealt with in the Circuit Court. They are tried before a judge and jury and include offences such as burglary, certain types of assault, robbery, serious drugs and sexual assault. Offences such as murder, rape, treason and piracy are dealt with by the Central Criminal Court. Terrorist offences and offences with an organized crime element can be heard by the non-jury Special Criminal Court.
Decisions of the Circuit Court in criminal matters can be appealed to the Court of Appeal.
How are criminal matters brought before the Circuit Court?
Most criminal cases before the Circuit Court are brought by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). Sometimes prosecutions can be brought by other bodies such as the Revenue Commissioners or the Health and Safety Authority.
All criminal cases dealt with in the Circuit Court begin in the District Court. Cases are sent forward from the District Court to the Circuit Court either on a signed plea of guilty or on an order sending the case forward for trial.
When a case is sent forward for trial, a book of evidence is served on the accused by the DPP in the District Court. The book includes all the evidence that the prosecution intend to raise in court, for example, a statement of the charges against the accused and a list of witnesses the DPP intends to call.
Where a person is sent forward to the Circuit Court for trial the case is heard by a judge and jury. An accused person may decide to change his/her plea to guilty and dispense with the need for a trial.
If a trial goes ahead, the judge guides the jury on legal matters while the jury decides the facts and returns their verdict.