Who’s who in criminal proceedings

Victim (Injured Party)

​Anyone can be the victim of a crime. Don’t think that it only happens to others. Victims in criminal procedure are called injured parties. An injured party is someone who, as a result of breach of criminal law (a crime or criminal infringement), has suffered material or immaterial harm. Family members and close relatives of people who have deceased because of a crime are also afforded the status of injured parties, however only if they themselves have suffered material or immaterial harm due to the death of the person deceased. Victims are afforded the status of the injured party in criminal procedure by a decision of a pre-trial investigation officer, a prosecutor, or a court. The rights that injured parties are entitled to arise from the moment the aforementioned decision is taken. What acts count as crimes and criminal infringements is described by the Criminal Code of Lithuania. However, punishments for some less important but harmful acts are provided in the Code of Administrative Infringements of Lithuania. If you have been harmed by an administrative infringement you should be acknowledged the status of an injured party in an administrative procedure. If you were or are a victim of crime, you should report it to the authorities. To find out more about how to report a crime, click here. Most of criminal acts are to be investigated even if victims do not want them to be investigated. However, there are certain criminal acts that the laws require to be investigated only when victims apply for pre-trial investigation to be started. Injured parties have a number of rights, and it is important to be aware of them. To know more about the rights of injured parties click here. Sometimes it is quite difficult to exploit the rights of yours to the full extent, thus legal assistance and representation are necessary. In most cases you would be entitled to free legal aid. If you would like to know more about how to get legal assistance and representation, click here.



​Criminal cases are heard by the courts of first instance (district courts and regional courts). You can appeal decisions of the courts of the first instance to the higher courts (decisions of district courts can be appealed to regional courts, decisions of regional courts can be appealed to the Court of Appeal of Lithuania). If you consider that decision on your appeal was not just, you can apply for a review of the judgments by the Supreme Court of Lithuania. During the trial, cases in the courts of first instance are usually heard by one judge, however a panel of three judges can be formed in every case when the court decides it to be necessary. When a panel of judges is formed, one of the judges is designated to be the president of the panel. Appeals are to be examined by a panel of three judges in every case. The judge (or a panel of judges) is responsible for the case management, ensuring that everything runs in an orderly and disciplined manner, that the evidence is given and the participants in the proceedings have the chance to examine it. Secondly, he or she must decide whether the defendant is guilty or not and, if found guilty, which penalty should be imposed. The judge also has to decide on the claims laid down in the civil claim. The judge is responsible for writing the judgment, reading it aloud in the courtroom on the scheduled date and explaining it to the participants in the proceedings, particularly to the defendant and to the injured party (victim). Judges can also be involved before the trial starts. The laws establish that pre-trial investigations are led by prosecutors, but some measures which may encroach on citizens’ fundamental rights must be performed or authorized by the judge of pre-trial investigation. Judges of pre-trial investigation can also perform certain other functions, when necessary, e.g. they can lead the questioning of injured parties and witnesses (when an injured party or a witness is juvenile, or a prosecutor has some doubts that injured parties and witnesses can change their evidence submitted later). You can also appeal decisions of prosecutors to a judge of pre-trial investigation (however decisions of a prosecutor should first be appealed to a senior prosecutor in most cases).



​Prosecutors are state officials who lead and supervise pre-trial investigations and uphold charges laid against defendants during trials. Most cases are usually investigated by police, prosecutors in these cases supervise activities of pre-trial investigation officers and are involved when decisions on certain coercive measures are to be taken. However, even in cases being investigated by the police, prosecutors can decide to take over the whole investigation or to perform some parts of it themselves. Prosecutors in these cases can also order police officers to take specific steps in investigation, to search for specific evidence, to question specific witnesses, etc. You can also appeal every decision or inactivity of pre-trial investigation officers to prosecutor (and to appeal decisions of prosecutors to their superiors). When you think that certain steps in the pre-trial investigation shall be taken, you can submit written petitions on these issues either to pre-trial investigation officer or to prosecutor directly. The prosecutor is the one who takes decisions either to terminate pre-trial investigations or to forward cases to courts for trial. In the latter case the prosecutor leading pre-trial investigation writes a bill of indictment and formulates charges against the defendant. Afterwards prosecutor upholds the charges laid during the whole trial procedure. He or she can also appeal judgments of courts of first instances, and to apply for a review of the case by the Supreme Court of Lithuania. Please note that every prosecutor performs their functions in the case because you have suffered a crime. However they do not have to abide to your decisions, i.e. in most cases they have to start criminal procedure even if you do not wish your crime to be investigated (except some specific crimes and criminal infringements), they do not have neither right nor duty to terminate criminal procedure if you wish it to be terminated, they can appeal every judgment even if you do not want any appeal to be made, etc.


Pre-trial investingation officer

​Pre-trial investigation is the first stage of criminal procedure devoted to gathering of evidence that would be necessary to hold a trial. Pre-trial investigation is led and supervised by a prosecutor, however most of the actions are performed by pre-trial investigation officers. Usually pre-trial investigation officer is the one that injured parties (victims) are in constant contact with. In most cases pre-trial investigations are performed by police officers. However the laws establish that pre-trial investigations can also be performed by other institutions, such as State Border Guard Service under the Ministry of the Interior, Special Investigation Service of the Republic of Lithuania, Financial Crime Investigation Service under the Ministry of the Interior, and some others. Prosecutors can also perform pre-trial investigations fully or partially themselves. Pre-trial investigation officers decide whether the pre-trial investigation shall be commenced (however they cannot decline to start the pre-trial investigation, this decision can only be taken by the chief of the pre-trial investigation institution or a prosecutor). They also usually perform all actions of pre-trial investigations: question injured parties, witnesses, and suspects, take samples of various materials (blood, saliva, clothing, etc.) for forensic examination, organize face-to-face confrontations, etc. In the end of a pre-trial investigation, the last word belongs to the prosecutor – only he or she can take decisions either to terminate investigation or to present charges against the culprit and to forward the case file to court. The functions of pre-trial officers end there. They can participate in court hearings, however they are considered to be witnesses and not state officials there.


Victim support worker

​A victim support worker (VSW) is a person with a specialized training in the field of victim support, whose job is to identify, to accompany, and to provide support to victims of crime. The VSW understands how the victim feels and what they go through after experiencing a crime. In that sense, their job is to help the victim overcoming or, at least, mitigating the impacts of the crime. For this purpose, a VSW is endowed to provide several kinds of support, including emotional, psychological and legal support, in addition to help in solving practical issues that followed from the crime, e.g. providing information, helping with applications to a public benefit, etc. To perform these duties, VSW have a number of professional and personal skills. In addition to holding academic qualifications in an area closely related to the needs of crime victims (such as criminology, psychology, law, social services, among others), they have received specialized training in victim support. Therefore, they have in-depth knowledge about the consequences of victimization, victim’s reactions, available support services, etc., over which they can provide information. At a personal level, VSW are able to listen to the victim, understand their fragility at this time and provide emotional support, accept what the victim is willing to tell and what he/she is not willing to talk about and respect their decisions, even though they don’t agree with such decisions because they do not consider them in the victim’s best interest. When interacting with the justice system, victims can be accompanied by VSW. In these moments, in order to reduce anxiety, it is not only important for victims to know what to expect from each legal step beforehand, as it is also crucial to have someone, they trust with them. In this respect, VSW can provide support to both victims and witnesses by means of accompanying them to court, to the police and while forensic exams are being conducted, in addition to show them around the court, explain how the judicial procedure works and answer all the doubts and questions they might have regarding the legal procedure.


Defense lawyer

​Anyone who is a defendant in criminal proceedings is entitled to have a lawyer to represent his or her case. The laws establish a long list of cases where participation of a defense lawyer is mandatory, in these instances a case cannot proceed without him or her. Pre-trial investigation officers, prosecutors, and judges can also decide that participation of a defense lawyer is mandatory in any other case also. Practically, pre-trial investigations and trials without a defense lawyer are rare exemptions from the rule. A defendant can even hire several defense lawyers to represent his or her interests. If a suspect or defendant do not contract a defense lawyer himself or herself, they can apply for free legal aid, and it shall be provided without considering whether he or she has enough funds to hire a defense lawyer themselves. The defense lawyer takes an active role both during pre-trial investigation and trial. Defense lawyers have a right to submit evidence or to request that certain evidence be gathered, to question the defendant, the witnesses, and the injured party (victim) during court hearings, to lodge an appeal against decisions with which he or she does not agree, and certain other rights. The injured party may feel uncomfortable about some of the defense lawyer’s questions if he or she thinks that what he or she went through is being challenged. Don’t forget that it is the duty of the defense lawyer to protect the defendant’s interests, and usually his or her questions do not represent any personal attitude of his or her towards you. If any question goes beyond what is acceptable, it is for the judge to interrupt and maintain the order and discipline at the trial.



​Every person who may know any circumstances that may relate to the crime being investigated may be called to testify in pre-trial investigation or in court hearing. This way persons are acknowledged as having the status of a witness of crime. Any witness who is called to appear must appear before the pre-trial investigation officer, the prosecutor, or the court on the date and at the time and place given, and to answer questions truthfully. Please note that family members and close relatives of a suspect or a defendant can decline giving testimonies at all or can decline answering certain questions posed. However, they are still obliged to appear before the pre-trial investigation officer, the prosecutor, or the court if summoned for a questioning. On the day of the trial witnesses are not allowed to be in the courtroom before testifying, so they should wait in the witness waiting area and enter the courtroom only to give their evidence. The defendant may be removed from the courtroom while a witness is testifying, if the court considers that the defendant’s presence may deter the witness from telling the truth. Witnesses are obliged to answer all the questions during their questioning. The laws consider it to be a crime to provide false statements at the court proceedings, i.e. everyone may be punished for not telling truth when knowing that he or she is lying. But nobody can blame a witness neither legally nor in any other way for not remembering some details relevant to the case.


Representative of state institution on protection of children rights

​The laws establish that a representative of state institution on protection of children rights must be present at all questionings (both during pre-trial investigation and trial) of minor injured parties (victims) and witnesses, as well as juvenile injured parties (victims) and witnesses in cases of crimes against life, health, sexual and some other crimes. Participants of the case may request participation of a representative of state institution on protection of children rights in every other case where injured party or witness is a juvenile, and it is obligatory to comply with these requests. Participants of the case can also request participation of a representative of state institution on protection of children rights in questionings of juvenile suspects and defendants, these requests are obligatory also. Main task of a representative of state institution on protection of children rights is to monitor whether all the rights and interests of a child are respected during questionings. They do not participate in questionings itself and observe them from another room. However the laws entitle the representatives of state institution on protection of children rights to request officials leading the questioning to give specific questions to injured parties (victims) and witnesses, as well as to submit petitions on all the other aspects of questioning (e.g. to make a break in the questioning, to provide the injured party or a witness with a glass of water, etc.).


I was a victim of crime: consequences and reactions The rights of victims of crime Criminal proceedings Who’s who in criminal proceedings


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