Frequently Asked Questions: Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions

A list of commonly asked questions and answers about appearing in court, giving evidence or the prosecution process.

  

What is the role of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP)?

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The ODPP is Western Australia's prosecuting agency. The ODPP prosecutes all serious offences (known as indictable offences) committed against the criminal laws of Western Australia.

The ODPP does not investigate offences. That is the job of agencies such as the WA Police Force and the Corruption and Crime Commission (CCC). The ODPP prosecutes serious crimes once a charge has been laid.

What does the ODPP take into account when deciding whether to continue or terminate a prosecution?

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Decisions on prosecutions can be complex. The ODPP takes into account the written law and applies a set of published prosecution guidelines and tests. The ODPP ultimately makes decisions based on the evidence and the public interest. The ODPP endeavours, wherever possible, to take into account the views of victims of crime when substantially reducing or discontinuing charges. Refer to the DPP’s Statement of Prosecution Policy and Guidelines for more information.

Are victims of crime entitled to information on the prosecution process?

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Yes. A victim of crime has the right to ask the ODPP for information on the progress of the case involving them. As soon as the ODPP takes over a prosecution we will write to all of the victims of that crime.  A form will be included in this letter that will ask you about the types of information you would like to receive. Please complete the form and return it to the ODPP.

Does the same ODPP prosecutor have conduct of a prosecution from start to finish?

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The ODPP will allocate a prosecutor (known as a file manager) who will be in charge of the prosecution case as it progresses through the criminal court process. Unfortunately, the nature of criminal proceedings and court listings means that it is often not possible for the same prosecutor to handle all matters and all court appearances on the case. However, the prosecutor file manager or the paralegal file manager can be contacted for information at any time during the progress of the case.

How can I find out the name of the prosecutor handling the case?

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This information is available by telephoning the ODPP on (08) 9425 3999 or toll free on 1800 264 144, or by emailing the ODPP at dpp@dpp.wa.gov.au.

Case files are recorded by the name of the accused person. If you do not know the ODPP file reference number, it will be helpful if you have the name of the accused person when calling. If you do not have this information, the ODPP staff will still be able to help you.

Do all cases have to go to trial?

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All criminal cases will be dealt with in court. However, in many cases the accused person will plead guilty and the matter will be completed fairly quickly without the need for a victim of crime or a witness to give evidence. Where the accused person pleads not guilty, a trial will be held and victims of crime and witnesses will usually be required to give evidence in court.

In some instances, the outcome of the ODPP’s full review of the evidence and public interest may result in some charges, or whole cases, being discontinued without the case going to court.

How will I know whether I will have to give evidence in court?

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When the accused person pleads not guilty, and there is to be a trial, the ODPP will write to all witnesses before the trial date and will provide information about the trial process.

Will I meet the prosecutor before the trial?

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Yes. The ODPP always tries to ensure that the prosecutor meets witnesses prior to the trial. Sometimes this is difficult in country locations or if there is a late change in the lawyer prosecuting, however, the ODPP always aims to do so.

Witnesses can speak to the file manager if they don’t know who the trial prosecutor will be.

The ODPP has video conferencing facilities that we may be able to use to facilitate contact with our prosecutor, where the witness is interstate or in regional or remote locations in WA.

What help is available for victims of crime?

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Please go to the "Victims of Crime" page on this website for more information. Here you will find links to other agencies that provide help and support to victims of crime. You will also find more information about how the ODPP assists victims of crime.

Who do I talk to about travel arrangements to attend court?

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If you need to travel long distances to court the ODPP will make travel and accommodation arrangements on your behalf and will meet the cost. You should receive a letter from the ODPP prior to the trial. Please contact the person named in the letter to find out more information about travel and accommodation arrangements. Further information is also available on the "Witnesses" page on this website.

Are child care facilities available whilst I'm giving evidence for the ODPP?

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Courts generally do not have child care facilities within the court precinct. However, arrangements can be made on your behalf with child care agencies for the care of your children when you are appearing in court as a prosecution witness. Please contact either the ODPP or the Court where you are due to give evidence for further information.

Can I claim loss of wages for appearing in court as an ODPP witness?

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Yes. Usually your employer will continue to pay you. The ODPP will be able to reimburse your employer for an actual loss of wages or income arising from a requirement to appear in court as a witness for the ODPP. If you are self-employed we may be able to compensate you for loss of income. Please see the "Witnesses" page on this website for more information or contact the ODPP for further information.

What should I do if I feel frightened about giving evidence or feel concerned about my safety?

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You should immediately contact the ODPP and ask to speak to the ODPP prosecutor handling the case. You should also contact the police officer who investigated the case.

What should I do if I have difficulty understanding the English language?

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You should contact the ODPP as soon as possible. The ODPP will arrange for an interpreter to assist you in court.

The Telephone Interpreter Service will be able to assist you with the interpretation of letters and documents. Telephone: 13 14 50.

What input does a victim of crime have on the court's sentencing process?

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Victims of crime can give the Court a written Victim Impact Statement informing the Court of the effect of the crime on their life. The Court will take this information into account during sentencing. Victims of crime, however, cannot make comments to the court on the penalty or sentence that an offender should receive.

Information on Victim Impact Statements can be obtained from the Victim Support Service.

Can victims of crime be informed of the final outcome of the court case?

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Yes. Victims of crime have a right to be informed of the final outcome of the prosecution. However, the ODPP will only inform victims of crime who have asked to be provided with information on the case. You should tell the ODPP that you wish to be advised of the final outcome and the ODPP will do that.

Can a victim of crime appeal against the verdict or sentence in a case?

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No. Our system of justice does not allow victims of crime to appeal against a jury verdict or a court sentence. Victims, however, can raise their concerns with the ODPP prosecutor who will take their views into account when deciding whether an appeal is possible. Appeals can only be commenced by the ODPP in exceptional circumstances.

What is involved in an appeal?

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An appeal against sentence can be commenced by the accused person or the ODPP. These appeals involve the Court of Appeal reviewing the original sentencing decision. The Court of Appeal has the power to increase, decrease or maintain the original sentence. It is not a trial and witnesses do not give evidence.

An appeal against a conviction following trial can be made by the accused person. An appeal against conviction involves legal argument and witnesses do not usually have to give evidence. The Court of Appeal has the power to either dismiss or uphold the appeal. In some cases the conviction may be set aside and a new trial may be held at a later date. Generally the ODPP does not have the right to appeal against the acquittal of an accused person.

Page reviewed 21 December 2020