This web page is part of the Guide to the Icelandic justice system for victims of sexual offences. It aims to clarify the process regarding offences against individuals 18 years and older.

At the police’s prosecution department

First, the police’s prosecution department decides in which channel the case will be placed.

From the police to the District Prosecutor’s Office

If the police’s prosecution department considers the case fully investigated, the case is forwarded to the District Prosecutor’s Office for indictment processing.

Investigated further or investigation ceased

The police’s prosecution department can also decide to cease investigation or to ask the investigative division to investigate the case further.

Plaintiff, appellant or prosecutor? What is the difference?

The plaintiff (ice. kærandi) is the one who decides to press charges with the police or a prosecutor, you in this instance. The appellant is the person who appeals a court ruling to the Court of Appeal or the Supreme Court (also called a kærandi in Icelandic).

The authority to issue an indictment, on the other hand, is in the hands of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the District Prosecutor, and the police commissioner. Those are the prosecutors (ice. ákærendur) who issue indictments against perpetrators in criminal cases.

At the District Prosecutor’s Office

The District Prosecutor will issue an indictment if they consider what has emerged in the case to be sufficient or likely to lead to the perpetrator being found guilty before the court. If it is not sufficient or likely, they will dismiss the case.

When deciding whether to issue an indictment, the prosecutor must have in mind that all uncertainty regarding guilt is not to the victim’s advantage.

One District Prosecutor, eight district courts

The District Prosecutor prosecutes across the entire country. However, there are eight district courts for eight different areas (in ice.). Usually, the case will be pleaded where the perpetrator lives. Sometimes the case is processed in the district court where the offence took place.

If the District Prosecutor issues an indictment

What is the charge for?

It may surprise you what the District Prosecutor decides to charge the perpetrator for. It depends on the legal provisions for which they are being charged and what the prosecutor considers possible to prove before the court.

The accused becomes the defendant

The perpetrator is called “the accused” (ice. sakborningur) from the beginning of the investigation and is called “the defendant” (ice. ákærði) if the case is brought before the court.

If the District Prosecutor dismisses the case

If the case doesn’t make it any further in the system, that does not at all mean that the violence did not occur - absolutely not. The main role of the justice system, police, and courts of law is to look at the data in criminal cases in an impartial manner. In the vast majority of cases, these institutions are simply not permitted to interpret the facts of the case on any other basis.

Dismissal appealed to Director of Public Prosecutions

A case dismissal, whether by police or the District Prosecutor, can be appealed to the Director of Public Prosecutions. Then the case data is reviewed again by a prosecutor at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

If it comes to that, your legal rights protector will assist you with the next steps. Then the case data is reviewed again by a prosecutor at the office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. The Director of Public Prosecutions can either repeal the decision or uphold it.

The recovery process after a sexual offence takes a long time and criminal case proceedings through the justice system can take around two years, if the case is not dismissed before then. Survivor support centres can identify various ways to make the recovery process easier.

More good advice?

See also

Receiving information

Information is relayed to you differently depending on whether the case is with the police or the District Prosecutor.

Information from the police’s prosecution department: letters on

Notifications from the police’s prosecution department about whether the case has been forwarded, sent back to the investigative division, or ceased will be relayed to you and your legal rights protector via letter on

Information from District Prosecutor: legal rights protector

The District Prosecutor will only contact your legal rights protector, not you personally. If an indictment is issued, your legal rights protector will be notified, and will relay the information to you.

If the case is dismissed, the reasons for that decision will be explained to you and your legal rights protector.


In special cases, the District Prosecutor can recommend for a case to go to mediation (in ice.), but it is rare for that to be done in serious sexual offence cases or other cases involving violent offences

Length of investigation

It’s common for one and a half years to have passed from when the offence was committed until a decision is made on whether an indictment is issued or not.

The processing of the case by police, through the investigative division and the prosecution department, usually takes around one year. The processing through the District Prosecutor’s Office usually takes an additional six months or so.