If the public prosecutor decides to prosecute, the prosecution will be assessed by a court of law at a meeting known as a hearing or trial.
Those who have been summoned to appear at a court hearing often feel nervous and anxious; for many, this is the first time they come in contact with the judiciary. By learning more about what takes place before, during, and after a hearing, it may be easier to participate. You can learn more about the legal proceedings in the Court Introduction. Below is a short description of the proceedings.
As an injured party, you may be summoned to appear in court if the prosecutor has requested that you should be heard or if you have lodged a claim for damages. Please note that if you should fall ill or if you think that you have some other acceptable reason for not appearing in court, you must notify the court as soon as possible before the hearing. If you fail to appear and do not have a valid reason, you are liable to a fine, the size of which is stated in the summons. You may even be fetched and taken to the hearing by the police.
The Main Hearing
At the main hearing, the District Court determines whether the defendant should be convicted of the crime. Everything of significance to the case is presented orally to the court. The prosecutor presents his or her account of the criminal act, which is known as the statement of facts. After that you, as the injured party, will be heard, then the defendant and finally any witnesses. If you have lodged a claim for damages, this will also be assessed by the court.
When you are questioned, you will be asked first to tell the court in your own words about what happened. Then the prosecutor and the defendant’s defence counsel will ask you questions. The judges may sometimes ask additional questions. The hearing of an injured party tends to be intrusive and detailed, which is often necessary in order for the prosecutor to be able to prove that a crime has been committed.
If you find it difficult to appear in court or answer questions while having to face the defendant, you should notify the court, the prosecutor, or your counsel, preferably well in advance of the hearing. The court may then decide that the defendant must sit in another room while you are being heard. However, the defendant is entitled to listen to your statement via a loudspeaker.
Court hearings are usually open to the general public, but if the case in question is of a sensitive nature, the court may decide that the hearing will take place behind closed doors and that only certain persons are allowed to stay in the court room.
When the main hearing is over, the court will judge the case and then state when the sentence will be announced. On that day, you can phone the court’s registry office to find out the outcome. If you have presented a claim for damages, you will automatically receive a copy of the court’s sentence by post. Otherwise you must ask the prosecutor or the court to have the sentence sent to you.
If you are not satisfied with the decision of the District Court, you may appeal the decision to the Court of Appeal. Instructions on how to proceed are included in the sentence. In certain cases, a review permit is required in order for the case to be heard by this court. When a decision has been appealed, there is usually a new hearing in the Court of Appeal. Due to a recent reform in 2008, however, the questionings of parties and witnesses are no longer necessary in the Courts of Appeal. For the purpose of facilitating the handling of the case, as well as making the process easier for victims and witnesses, questionings at the hearings in the District Courts are recorded on camera. The videos are then viewed by the Court of Appeal.
A Court of Appeal decision can be appealed to the Supreme Court. However, the Supreme Court only reviews cases where a decision may be used as a guide to future action (known as a ‘precedent’), or where a review is deemed absolutely necessary.
Expenses in Conjunction with the Hearing
If you have been summoned to appear in court at the request of a public prosecutor, you have the right to reimbursement for expenses you have incurred in order to come to court. The matter of reimbursement is usually dealt with at the court’s reception desk after the hearing. The amount will be paid out to you straight away. Contact the court of law for more information.
If the prosecutor is not presenting your claim for damages and if you do not have a counsel, you can bring action for damages yourself. If you have incurred expenses in this respect, you have the right to demand compensation from the defendant for such legal expenses. If the defendant is sentenced to pay the damages you have requested, then as a rule he or she will also have to pay your legal expenses.