Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Directors of Public Prosecutions

All the Australian states and the commonwealth have Directors of Public Prosecutions. Their functions are outlined for for the NSW DPP as:


to institute and conduct, on behalf of the Crown, prosecutions for indictable offences (under NSW laws) in the Supreme Court and the District Court;


to institute and conduct, on behalf of the Crown, appeals in any court in respect of any such prosecution; and


to conduct on behalf of the Crown as respondent, any appeal in any court in respect of any such prosecution.

The stated rationale for the establishment of these positions is:

he creation of a Director of Public Prosecutions changed the administration of criminal justice in New South Wales: day to day control of criminal prosecutions for New South Wales offences passed from the Attorney General to the Director of Public Prosecutions (the DPP). As a result of the Act there now exists a separate and independent prosecution service. That independence is a substantial safeguard against corruption and political interference in the criminal justice system.

DPPs often war with politicians over the propensity of politicians (and the media) to convict people of crimes sometimes even before they are charged. There is currently a dispute between the NSW Liberal leader Peter Debnam and the NSW DPP arising out of the Cronulla riots and subsequent disturbances and the leader has announced:

"A coalition government will establish an oversight committee in parliament to oversee the office of the DPP, and its performance," Mr Debnam said.
"And it will also limit future appointments of the DPP so they are appointed for seven years, not for life."

Generally the defense of DPPs in Australia has been a progressive cause, reforms by the Kennett Liberal government in Victoria to the position were particularly controversial and Labor campaigned against them and reversed them.

I have always had my doubts would ridiculous prosecutions such as those of Queensland chief magistrate have occurred if the decision to prosecute had been subject to review by the Attorney-General? I can see the argument for the DPP's independence but it is not an unqualified good.


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