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The role of the police

In the ACT, it is the role of ACT Policing to investigate reports of criminal offences.

When you report a matter to police they may ask you to provide a statement to them or record a conversation between you both about the incident. This is a record in your own words of what happened. You are entitled to receive a copy of your statement.

For children, police may make a video recording of their conversation with the police.

When police receive a report, they may commence an investigation. Sometimes making a report to police does not result in an investigation for many reasons. However, it is still important to tell police what happened because reports of crime can form part of the information that help them identify issues within the community.

Whether or not an investigation takes place, police will provide you with a case reference number.

The purpose of an investigation is for police to gather information and evidence. This helps them identify an offender; to determine whether a criminal offence has been committed and/or to help them decide what course of action to take. They are impartial and neutral as investigators.

The length of time the investigation takes is dependent on a number of things, such as whether the offender has been identified, whether the offender can be found, and what physical or other evidence the police need.

If there are any witnesses, police will speak to them as part of the investigation.

If there is enough evidence, police will try to speak to the person believed to have committed the crime. That person may decline to be interviewed. If that happens, police can still continue with the investigation and the collection of evidence.

Once police have completed the investigation they will decide what happens next. They will decide if charges should be laid and what those charges are. This is a police responsibility and not the responsibility of the victim. They may decide to caution the alleged offender, to proceed with a summons or arrest them.

A summons is an order to attend court at a date in the future. Should a person not turn up to court on that day, the court can issue a warrant for the person's arrest.

An arrest means that a person is taken into custody straight away in order to face the court the next day (court does not sit on Sundays).

In some circumstances where the alleged offender is a young person (someone under 18 years of age), police may refer the matter to a restorative justice process.

If an investigation leads to charges being laid and the accused person pleads not guilty, the police are responsible for preparing a brief of evidence. The brief contains all witness statements, forensic evidence and any other material that relates to the charges. The brief is sent to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) and to the defence team for review. The prosecutor is the person who will make the decision as to whether there is enough evidence to prosecute a person, and if so, they will run the prosecution.

The police have obligations to victims of crime under the governing principles of the Victims of Crime Act 1994, for more information about the obligations of the police visit our Justice Agencies and their obligations section.