The Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1990 established an independent professional service to prosecute serious criminal offences. In February 1998 a Memorandum of Understanding between the Commissioner of Police and the Director extended the responsibility of the Director to include Summary Prosecutions. These guidelines are published pursuant to section 25 of the Act. A reference to a prosecutor in this document is a reference to any police prosecutor or any legal practitioner representing the interests of the Crown or of the Director in criminal and related proceedings.
Guidelines for the prosecution of offences in the Northern Territory were first issued on 30 September 1991. The Guidelines were distilled from practise and experience and reflected the law and policy as it existed at the time of publishing. They were made public in order to promote awareness and understanding of the policies, procedures and decision making criteria adopted by the Office. They provided guidance to prosecutors in the exercise of the decisions and discretions they were called upon to make in the fulfilment of their duties. The Guidelines provided a benchmark of accountability and set the standard of performance required from both prosecutors and the Office as a whole.
As the law is constantly evolving and under review, so too must the Guidelines be reviewed and amended or changed as circumstances require. There have been updates to individual Guidelines since they were first published, and additional Guidelines have been produced. However, in 2004 it was determined to comprehensively review and republish the entirety of the Guidelines to ensure they were fully up to date and in line with the legislative and procedural changes affecting the criminal justice process.
Of particular interest are the Guidelines which address the role and involvement in the prosecution process of the Witness Assistance Service (Guideline 11), and the role of Aboriginal customary law and its applicability to Aboriginal offenders, victims, and the legal system (Guideline 20). To the best of my knowledge, both Guidelines are unique to the Territory. There have been substantial amendments to the Guideline concerning Domestic Violence (Guideline 21). These amendments address the changing attitudes of the public, the government and the courts to violence in intimate relationships.
The Guidelines will assist prosecutors in the furtherance of the functions of the Office. They are designed to promote consistency and efficiency, effectiveness and transparency in the administration of justice.
The Guidelines are freely and publicly available on the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions website, www.nt.gov.au/justice/dpp/. They will continue to be updated from time to time to reflect legislative and procedural changes. They serve to guide prosecutors and inform the community about the actions and decisions of the Office.
I acknowledge the major contribution made to the preparation of this document by Crown Prosecutor-in-Charge of the Alice Springs Office, Dr Nanette Rogers, and the Solicitor to the Director, Elisabeth Armitage. They worked tirelessly together to finalise the draft in time for its publication at this time. They were ably assisted in the completion of the manuscript by Sue Golik. I thank each of these staff members.
REX WILD QC
DIRECTOR OF PUBLIC PROSECTIONS
31 January 2005