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.
- Abuse in close relationships
- A guide to the Icelandic justice system
- The police investigates
The police investigates
When the police have received information that an offence was committed, an investigation can begin.
How is the investigation conducted?
The case has become a public criminal case that is now being investigated by police and is in their hands. Through the investigation, data is collected so it is possible to plead the case before the district court.
Location of the offence
Police in the district (ice. umdæmi) where the offence took place conduct the investigation. If there is no specific department for sex offences in the district, the police will receive support from other districts.
Firstly, the offence is categorized under the applicable legal provision(s). Offence categories are defined in legislation and your legal rights protector can inform you about the provisions that apply. Examples of offence categories are: rape, harassment, and violation of modesty.
Your description determines the offence category
The categorization is based on your description of the offence during the police interview. The police try to match the description with the correct legal provision. How the offence is categorized may surprise you; people don’t necessarily talk about offences the same way they are defined in legislation.
The police’s role is to uncover the truth and to document evidence. Some actions they take in order to do this are:
- Calling in the perpetrator.
- Calling in witnesses.
- Comparing your testimony to that of the people listed above.
Collecting evidence, for example:
- Security camera footage.
- Collecting phone data, or copying data from phones, with your permission.
- Communication on social media, with your permission.
- Certificates from doctors, psychologists, and similar professionals, with your permission.
The police may call you in for another interview to shed light on something that has emerged during the investigation or ask you for more data. Then then police will contact your legal rights protector.
Important information about the perpetrator
If you can identify the perpetrator right away, the police try to contact them immediately following the offence. That makes it possible to collect important data. If the offence is not recent, the police evaluate what data can be collected in each case, for example from the scene of the offence or the perpetrator’s home. This is evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If the perpetrator lives abroad
There are various steps that can be taken in a sexual offence investigation even if the perpetrator is only in the country temporarily, for example if they are a tourist.
You should not let a perpetrator’s short stay prevent you from pressing charges. As in all other sexual offence cases, it is best to get the police on the case as soon as possible so that the perpetrator can be found. If they have left the country, the Icelandic police often work with police in the perpetrator’s home country to find them.
Don’t block the perpetrator on social media although you may want to. It’s difficult not to but well worth trying. If you decide to press charges, your communication history is evidence in the case, but it disappears if you block someone.
When the investigation is over
A fully investigated case
The offence is investigated regardless of whether a conviction is likely. The investigator investigates the case and the police’s prosecution department decides on its continuation. When a case is considered fully investigated it is sent to the District Prosecutor’s Office.
Investigation stopped in the police’s prosecution department
The investigation could be stopped, and the case not sent to the District Prosecutor’s Office. The decision to stop an investigation is always made in the police’s prosecution department, by a legally qualified representative. If the police’s prosecution department decides to stop an investigation, it is because it is not considered likely that the case will make it through the District Prosecutor’s Office.
The case is then considered fully investigated and it is considered that further investigation will not lead to uncovering more facts in the case.
This does not mean that your experience is not real or that the violence did not occur. It only means that there was not enough evidence to take the case further.
It is possible to appeal the decision to stop an investigation to the Director of Public Prosecutions (ice. ríkissaksóknari). Your legal rights protector assists you with that process.
Request to reopen the investigation
It is difficult to pick up an investigation exactly where it left off when it was stopped. The condition for reopening the case investigation is that new information has emerged that was not available when the investigation was stopped. You must also submit a request for the investigation to be reopened.
The police look at the information to evaluate whether the investigation will be reopened or not.
Investigation stopped at the request of the victim
You can request for the investigation to be stopped. To do so, you need to go to the police along with your legal rights protector and explain why you want to withdraw the charges. If the investigation is stopped it is possible to continue it later if more information emerges.
Length of investigation
The investigation can take 4–6 months. Cases are often complex; it is necessary to speak to many witnesses and collect data. The length of investigations can vary greatly but it does not reflect their quality, rather the complexity of each case.
Waiting for the investigation to be completed can be a difficult period for many survivors. Trying to build yourself back up after the trauma is recommended, regardless of the investigation’s progress.
Notifications about the status of the case, such as whether the case has been sent onward, sent back for more investigation, or whether the investigation has been stopped, will be sent to you and your legal rights protector by letter through island.is
Access to data
While the case is under investigation, both you and the perpetrator have the right to receive information about its status and access to the case data. The defence and the legal rights protector request information about the case data. This is, however, under the condition that it does not impede the investigation of the case.
In addition, it is not permitted to view data or parts of data that contain sensitive personal information about anyone other than the person who is requesting to see the data - unless certain conditions are fulfilled.
Others that have access to the case data while it is under investigation (for use in their work) are the police, the prosecution, and the courts.
If the investigation of the case is stopped, you have the right to access all of the case data.