Criminal investigations

If there is any possibility that someone else caused a death and might have committed a criminal offence, there is usually a police investigation.

The purpose of a police investigation is to collect evidence. Evidence is then usually considered by a separate prosecuting authority, which decides whether or not there is enough evidence to bring a successful prosecution of one or more people, using criminal law.

If the prosecuting authority thinks there is enough evidence, then one or more people will be charged with a criminal offence.

If there is a police investigation, you may need help understanding what is happening. Your Sudden case worker can find you that help.

Criminal court cases

If someone pleads guilty they will usually face sentencing in a court. If they plead not guilty they will usually face a trial first.

Criminal court cases involve lawyers acting on behalf of the prosecuting authority, and lawyers acting on behalf of the person accused of any offence, who is often called the ‘defendant’.

The lawyers acting on behalf of the prosecuting authority are generally not acting on behalf of you; they act on behalf of the laws of your country.

Many people bereaved by sudden death often want to understand what is happening during criminal prosecutions and court cases, and you have a right to information and support.

If you are not sure how to obtain information and support during a criminal prosecution or court case, you should talk to the police or the prosecuting authority.

If someone is found guilty and sentenced, they often have the right to appeal against the verdict or the sentence. This may mean more time in court.

Bringing a private prosecution

It is sometimes possible for a member of the public, rather than a prosecuting authority, to prosecute another person for a criminal offence. This is called a private prosecution.

This process is very costly and you cannot claim legal aid.