The functions of the Director

The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was established by the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1990 ("the Act") to institute, conduct and supervise prosecutions and related proceedings. 

The Act provides that the Office be controlled by the Director, who is an independent statutory officer appointed by the Executive. The Director has the powers mentioned in the Public Sector Management Act 1994, section 25(3) in relation to the staff assisting the Director, that is to say:

(a) the powers of the head of service relating to the appointment, engagement and employment of people; and

(b) the powers of a director-general.

The Director makes prosecutorial decisions on a professional basis independent of political influence or control. The Director has complete independence in relation to the operations of his Office. 

The Act requires the Director and Attorney General to consult with each other, if required, concerning the functions and powers of the Director. The Attorney General may give directions to the Director, but any such directions must not be given without prior consultation; must be in writing and be presented to the Legislative Assembly; and be of a general nature only and not refer to a specific case.

The Act ensures that the Director's prosecuting role is independent of the police and other investigative agencies. Once a prosecution has been instituted all prosecutorial decisions are made by the Director.

The principal duties of the Director are:

  • to institute and conduct prosecutions, both summary and indictable;
  • to institute and respond to appeals;
  • to assist the coroner in inquests and inquiries;
  • to restrain and confiscate assets used in, or derived from, the commission of criminal offences; and
  • to provide advice to the police and other investigative agencies.

The Director has some important statutory functions, including:

  • to institute a prosecution on indictment where there has been no committal for trial (known as an ex officio indictment);
  • to decline to proceed further in a prosecution and bring it to an end;
  • to take over and conduct, or discontinue, prosecutions instituted by another person (other than the Attorney General);
  • to give to a person an undertaking that specified evidence will not be used against them, or that they will not be prosecuted for a specified offence or conduct; and
  • to give directions or furnish guidelines to the chief police officer and other persons specified in the Act, including investigators and prosecutors.

In prosecuting matters, the Director acts on behalf of the community. Prosecutors have strikingly been called "ministers of justice", a phrase which sums up the unique position of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system. It has been said that prosecutors must always act with fairness and detachment with the objectives of establishing the whole truth and ensuring a fair trial.

Although the Office does not have clients as such, in performing its functions the Office works closely with the Courts, the legal profession, police and other investigators, victim's representatives and other government agencies. The DPP must also ensure that appropriate consideration is given to the concerns of victims of crime.