A good piece of advice is to just look at the judge and speak to them, or toward the district prosecutor and your legal rights protector.
Where is the case pleaded?
The case is usually pleaded in the district court where the perpetrator’s legal residence is located. You might therefore be required to travel there to give testimony. The cost of travel, for example airfare, is usually included in the litigation costs that the judge will rule on.
Registration of a court case
The registration of a court case (þingfesting) means the district court has begun processing the case. The judge decides on the time and place where the case will be registered.
Defendant is required to attend but you are not
The defendant (the perpetrator) must attend the registration and plead guilty or innocent.
You do not have to attend the registration of the court case. Your legal rights protector attends on your behalf. They let you know whether the accused has pleaded guilty or innocent and when the hearing will take place.
Case receives a number
When the case is registered it is assigned a number. You can use that number to monitor the case on the district court website.
The perpetrator pleads guilty
If the perpetrator pleads guilty, the judge decides on the punishment, usually within four weeks from the registration of the case. If the perpetrator pleads guilty, you don’t have to testify in court.
Perpetrator pleads innocent
If the perpetrator pleads innocent, then the hearing of the case goes ahead. The hearing is also called a trial in everyday language.
- The case is pleaded by the district prosecutor on the one hand and the perpetrator’s defence on the other.
- Witnesses connected to the case are also called up. Everybody 15 years of age or older is required to appear in court as a witness to answer questions if they are summoned. One of the most important witnesses is you, the victim in the case.
- Your legal rights protector attends the court session on your behalf. If they have submitted a compensation claim in the case they explain that claim before the judge.
Your legal rights protector lets you know when you are required to be there and is there to support you during the process.
Going to the district court
Those who give testimony before the court are not permitted to listen to the testimony of those who are called up before them. That is why you wait outside the courtroom until you are shown in. You will most likely give testimony right after the perpetrator.
Sometimes witness testimony can take longer than accounted for and you may have to wait longer than you thought at first.
After you have given testimony, you can stay to watch the trial if you want to.
Most sexual offence cases are closed to the public.
In the courtroom
Those present in the courtroom are the judge, the prosecutor, the perpetrator’s defence, and your legal rights protector. The perpetrator may be present as well. A representative from child protection services who you have been in contact with is also in the courtroom to support you.
When it is your turn to testify, you walk into the courtroom and sit down on the witness stand. Usually the courtrooms are small rooms, so people are sometimes closer to each other than you might have expected. The perpetrator might therefore be sitting a few metres away from you.
The perpetrator has the right to be in the courtroom but they often excuse themselves or choose to not be present.
Request for the accused to leave the courtroom
It is possible to request that the accused (the perpetrator) not be present in the courtroom while you give testimony. Your legal rights protector is the one who submits that request. Sometimes the perpetrator agrees to leave, but if not, the judge rules on whether they must leave or not.
Who sits where?
The prosecutor and your legal rights protector sit on the left side of the courtroom. The perpetrator and their defence (lawyer) sit on the right side. The judge is in the middle. A good piece of advice is to just look at the judge and speak to them, or toward the district prosecutor and your legal rights protector, in order to draw strength from them.
Questions and instructions from the judge
First, the judge will ask you what your name is and briefly explain how the proceedings will go. The judge tells you that you are required to speak truthfully and correctly, and that not doing so in court is a punishable offence.
That does not mean that the judge expects you to lie, rather it is said to all witnesses. If the perpetrator is a close family member of yours, the judge will inform you that you are not required to give testimony.
What should I say?
Usually, the victim is first asked to recount the incident in question. Then the prosecutor from the district prosecutor’s office will ask about specific details. After the prosecutor has asked questions, the defence is offered the chance to ask questions and sometimes the legal rights protector and judge ask questions as well.
It’s OK to be unsure
The goal of listening to your account is to shed light on the incidents of the case. You are recalling difficult details in difficult circumstances. It is therefore OK, and in fact important, to say if you don’t remember something or are unsure. Sometimes the judge, prosecutor, or defence review what you said in your police statement and ask whether that description was correct.
After giving testimony
After you have given testimony, you may leave the courtroom or stay and follow along with the case proceedings.
Practice in a virtual reality courtroom
Where is the case pleaded?
The case is usually pleaded in the district court where the perpetrator’s legal residence is located. You might therefore be required to travel there to give testimony. The judge will usually rule on whether you are compensated for the cost of travel, for example airfare.
District court schedule online
On the district court website (under Dagskrá - in Icelandic), you can see cases that are waiting to be processed and whether that means registration, hearing or delivery of judgement. You can also see judgements that have been delivered in each region.
How long does this stage of the case take?
It takes around six months to review the case at the district prosecutor’s office before a decision is made to prosecute or dismiss the case. If a prosecution is made in the case, then the case needs to go through:
- Delivery of the judgement
The time between the registration of the case and the hearing can range from one to six months.
The judgement should then be delivered within four weeks of the hearing.