The role of the prosecution
The ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) has responsibility for prosecuting cases of all alleged criminal offences in the courts.
Once police decide there is sufficient evidence to proceed, the person alleged to have committed the offence, the 'accused' has to appear before the court. A prosecution lawyer from the ODPP conducts the prosecution once the matter (the term for a 'case') is before the court.
The ODPP makes the decision as to whether a matter should be prosecuted.Prosecutors need to consider a number of criteria when deciding whether a matter should be prosecuted. These include, but are not limited, to whether:
- there is sufficient evidence;
- there are reasonable prospects of obtaining a conviction at court; and
- the prosecution is in the public interest.
Whether there are reasonable prospects of obtaining a conviction is a test that involves consideration of many factors, including an assessment of the credibility and reliability of witnesses and the ability of witnesses to cope with giving evidence. It also involves consideration of whether the jury (or judge acting as a jury) or Magistrate would be satisfied of the offence beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard of proof.
While the prosecutor takes the victim's interests and wishes into consideration throughout the prosecution, the ODPP does not represent the victim in court.
Most victims of crime will be kept informed about the progress of the case by the police officer handling the case. In some cases (for example in serious violent offences and sexual offences) the ODPP will have direct contact with victims.
Within the ODPP, the Witness Assistance Service is available to support victims of serious crimes (such as sexual assault and other serious offences) and victims with special needs (such as children) and help them understand and prepare for the court process.