Page 3262 - Week 09 - Wednesday, 23 August 2017

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A well-resourced prosecution office is essential for the administration of justice in the territory. It is important that the DPP can appropriately pursue the wide range of cases that come before it, which, in addition to criminal cases, can include regulatory matters such as animal welfare matters and workplace safety matters. Any case which goes to a hearing where the defendant does not plead guilty requires significant preparation by prosecutors. This can include reading briefs which can be hundreds of pages long and watching hours of video footage. Whilst some matters may be over in a matter of minutes, some trials can literally last for months. Due to the nature and unpredictability of their work, prosecutors need to be extremely flexible with their time and ready to take on new cases when, for example, their colleagues are stuck in court with other matters. It is therefore essential that the DPP has the resources to manage the changing and unpredictable nature of the work of prosecutors.

A criminal justice system works best when the prosecution, the police, the courts and the defendants, usually through their lawyers, work together. Prosecutors need to make hard choices about which matters to pursue in court, when to accept plea deals and the most appropriate sentences to argue for. Whilst, understandably, the prosecution and the defence will often disagree, a collaborative approach will allow cases to progress smoothly through the courts. In making decisions, the prosecutors are guided by the procedures and standards which the law requires to be observed, in particular by the office’s prosecution policy.

The ACT DPP commenced operation on 1 July 1991. Previously the prosecuting service in the territory had been run by the commonwealth deputy crown solicitor’s office, and then by the commonwealth DPP. Unlike all other Australian jurisdictions, the ACT does not use police prosecutors. The use of police prosecutors was abolished in all matters before the ACT Court of Petty Sessions, as it was then known, in the late 1970s, and since that time legally qualified prosecutors have appeared in both summary and superior courts in the territory.

Canberra has changed significantly since the DPP was established. The advent of new technology has presented a challenge to prosecuting technology-based crimes. The intimate image laws passed by the Assembly last week are just one example of laws needing to be adapted to modern technology. It is therefore important that prosecutors are adequately resourced to prosecute these new technology-based offences as one example of the challenges they face. This is a very challenging area and prosecutors, courts and legislators need to be adaptive and responsive to new technology and, perhaps more importantly, the unintended uses of these new technologies.

One area of the DPP’s work which has changed significantly since the office was established has been community attitudes towards domestic and family violence. The ACT DPP now has a specialist domestic violence unit within its office dedicated to prosecuting these types of offences. This recognises the particular challenges and sensitivities that family violence matters present. Victims may be reluctant to come forward, or may later change their mind regarding pursuing charges against their alleged offender. Victims may not want to go through a lengthy court process, and may be forced to re-live a traumatic experience. Cases of domestic violence often

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