A Guide to Northern Irelands Criminal Justice System

For victims of sexual abuse who have a learning disability

A Guide to Northern Irelands Criminal Justice System

What is sexual abuse?

Sexual abuse can happen to anyone.

It can happen to:

  • Men and women
  • Boys and girls
  • People of any age
  • People of any race
  • People of any sexuality
  • People with or without a disability
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Reporting a crime

If someone has sexually abused you, they have done something wrong. They have broken the law.

If you report the crime to police the person may be punished. This means a judge will make a decision about the person and they may go to prison or be punished in another way.

Reporting the crime can help stop the person hurting someone else.

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What support can I get?

There is lots of support available to help you to talk about what happened.

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At the Police Station

When you report a crime to the police the person in charge of finding out more information about what happened is called the investigating officer.

They will give you a card with their telephone number on it. You can phone them if you need to. You can also ask someone to phone them for you.

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Will it go to court

The police will send all of the information they have collected to the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland (PPS).

The PPS look at the information and decide whether the case should go to court

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Going to court

If the defendant agrees with what you say happened it is called pleading guilty. It means they admit that they broke the law. If this happens, your statement (the information you gave to the police about what happened) will be read out in court. You will not have to go to court.

However, the defendant might plead not guilty. This means they do not agree with what you say happened. They do not admit that they broke the law.

If this happens, the court may need to hear from you about what happened. They might want to ask you some questions to help them decide if the defendant is guilty. This is normal and not something to worry about.

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The Trial

To be found guilty it must be proved “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. The judge or jury have to be completely sure that the crime happened.

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If you would like any more information, please get in touch with the officer in charge of your case or the Public Prosecution Service. There are also other organisations that are there to help you. You can contact them whether or not you decide to report a crime to the police. They can give you free, confidential support.

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