Thursday, 21 September 2017

Director of Public Prosecutions publishes new policy

In August 2017, the Director of Public Prosecutions published the Policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions for Victoria (Policy).  The Policy follows a comprehensive review of the DPP's policy material and replaces all former DPP policies.

The Policy is required reading for anyone involved in prosecution or employed in an agency with prosecutorial or regulatory functions.  You can and should use the Policy to guide your prosecutorial decisions in line with modern prosecutorial principles.  We've produced a quick summary of what the policy covers to help you easily identify the areas you might find most relevant to your day to day functions.

What does the Policy cover?

The Policy supplements the Public Prosecutions Act 1994 and relevant case law to promote  transparency, accountability and consistency in prosecutorial decision-making.  It aims to reflect, accurately and succinctly, the needs of modern-day prosecutors.  Importantly, the overriding criteria in making the decision to prosecute remain that there is a reasonable prospect of a conviction and the prosecution is in the public interest.

In summary, the Policy covers:

  • prosecutorial discretion 
  • the role of the prosecutor
  • victims and persons adversely affected by crime
  • resolution of criminal proceedings by agreement between the prosecution and the accused
  • the appropriate jurisdiction for indictable offences triable summarily
  • undertakings and indemnities
  • juries
  • family violence
  • appeals, references, retrials and reinvestigations
  • takeover of prosecutions by the DPP
  • proceeds of crime
  • giving reasons for prosecutorial decisions
  • advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions to external agencies
  • detention orders under the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervisions) Act 2009.

The DPP has also said that he will not print the Policy for distribution, but will treat it as a living, electronic document, to be continually reviewed and accessed as needed.  This approach ensures that the Policy is consistently relevant and up-to-date.  You can follow the DPP on Twitter to receive notification of updates to the policy.

What doesn't the Policy cover?

Inevitably, some matters covered by former policies are not covered in the Policy.  After all, the single, 50-page Policy replaces over 50 former policies, issued over several years and totalling almost 500 pages.  In the Policy Foreword, the DPP notes that this series of former policies did not bear a sufficient connection to the practice of a modern-day prosecutor.  Generally speaking, the Victorian public prosecutions service has sought to excise any policy material that was out of date, was related to internal DPP procedures or was seen as an unnecessary recitation of the law.

To give just a few examples, the new Policy does not reproduce the former policies on media communication, the investigation of jury offences or protocols for the prosecution of joint State-Commonwealth matters.  Several policies relating to specific applications or pieces of legislation have also been retired, such as those on notifications under s 49(1) of the Coroners Act 2008, the granting of consent to prosecute under the Racial and Religious Tolerance Act 2001 and the granting of consent to extend time to prosecute under the Funerals Act 2006.

What else does the Policy mean for me?

Agencies with prosecutorial or regulatory functions may also wish to review their internal policies and manuals to ensure they are up-to-date.  VGSO have a team of regulatory and enforcement specialists who can assist with investigations, prosecutions, as well as drafting of relevant policies, manuals and staff training.

Where can I go for more information?

If you would like further advice about the Policy or its implications for your practice, please contact:

Alicia Robson
8684 0494
Acting Managing Principal Solicitor

Michael Rancie
8684 0266