Criminal Justice Visas
A Criminal Justice Visa may be issued to a person accused of a crime who is not an Australian citizen and who would otherwise be liable to deportation prior to their matter being determined. Criminal Justice Visas are also sought in order to secure the continued presence in Victoria of Crown witnesses who might otherwise be liable to deportation from Australia prior to being called as a witness. One of the Policy and Specialised Legal Division's functions is to identify matters where such visas may be necessary, and oversee the process until the conclusion of the relevant proceedings.
FOI Applications, File Requests and privacy issues
The Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP) is subject to the Freedom of Information Act 1982 and is obliged to process incoming requests in accordance with the Act. The Policy and Specialised Legal Division also receives a large number of requests to access material and/or information contained in prosecution files, where such applications are not formally made under the Act or under subpoena.
The OPP liaises with the Victorian Ombudsman, whose role is to receive and process complaints and requests for review of various decisions made by government agencies.
The Policy and Specialised Legal Division's manager is the OPP/Ombudsman Liaison Officer, and regularly meets with Ombudsman staff to discuss matters and processes of mutual interest.
The OPP is served with a large number of subpoenas each year requiring it to produce materials to court. In each matter, the Policy and Specialised Legal Division considers the application and determines whether some or all of the material may be produced to the court.
extradition and prisoners interstate transfer
By arrangement with the Commonwealth Attorney-General and Victoria Police, all requests for international extradition of persons to Victoria must be the subject of consideration and advice by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). In practice, the Policy and Specialised Legal Division provides advice in relation to all requests for international extradition, and in the event of extradition proceeding, prepares the formal extradition request to be forwarded to the relevant foreign jurisdiction.
If an offender absconds from Victoria and is subsequently located interstate, approval must be given by the DPP for the interstate extradition of the offender, under the Service and Execution of Process Act 1992. All interstate extradition applications are considered and processed by the Policy and Specialised Legal Division.
Victoria is also subject to the statutory Australia-wide Prisoners Interstate Transfer Scheme. Prisoners undergoing sentence may be transferred to or from Victoria for purposes including undergoing trial. The Policy and Specialised Legal Division prepares all Prisoners Interstate Transfer requests involving transfer to Victoria, and receives and processes all correspondence in relation to proposals for Prisoners Interstate Transfer to another State.
Director’s Takeover Function
Under the Public Prosecutions Act 1994, the DPP has the power to take over and conduct (including terminating) summary or indictable matters in the Magistrates’ Court. Most frequently, this power is used in relation to privately-instituted prosecutions which are lacking in legal merit and which are often brought against public figures on a basis which is misconceived in fact or law. The Policy and Specialised Legal Division provides legal advice about whether the DPP should take over the proceeding, and if so, whether the matter should be continued or terminated.
Witness indemnities and informers liaison
Persons proposed to be called as Crown witnesses may often be in some danger of self-incrimination upon giving evidence in court on oath, either as a consequence of their partial involvement in the offences in question, or their involvement with other offences unrelated to those before the court. To be compellable, it is often necessary to issue the witnesses either with ‘Letters of Comfort’, Director’s Undertakings, or Director’s Indemnities. The DPP issues such instruments pursuant to specific powers under the Public Prosecutions Act 1994, and the discretion whether or not to issue an indemnity or undertaking is regulated by policy on this subject. In practice, all applications for the possible issuing of Letters of Comfort, Undertakings or Indemnities are considered and processed by the Policy and Specialised Legal Division.
The Victoria Police Human Sources Management Unit (which manages registered police informers) also has an arrangement with the DPP whereby ‘Letters of Assistance’, which are prepared by the police to be used by registered informers when seeking a reduction in their own sentence, are viewed and approved by the DPP before being produced to the court.
The Policy and Specialised Legal Division collates all sentencing data and updates and trains OPP staff in matters relating to important sentencing law issues and developments. It also liaises with external agencies in relation to sentencing law and policy.
Policy and Advice, in conjunction with the OPP Communications Unit, advises the DPP in relation to media issues.
The Policy and Specialised Legal Division has responsibility for prosecutions for contempt of court (and related proceedings for the breach of Publication Prohibition Orders). This includes dealing with all contempt and Breach of Publication orders arising out of OPP files, as well as providing advice to Victoria Police in relation to similar prosecutions which may arise out of matters initially conducted by the police.
The DPP has several roles under the Serious Sex Offender Monitoring and Detention Scheme. The DPP is a member of the panel which regularly reviews all prisoners who are due for release from sentences for certain types of offences, to determine which of them should be the subject of an application for a ‘Supervision Order’or ‘Detention Order’ under the scheme. The Policy and Specialised Legal Division compiles Detention Order applications for the DPP under the Serious Sex Offenders (Detention and Supervision) Act 2009.
Legal Crises Management
An important role of the Policy and Specialised Legal Division is to assist in the management of legal crises as they arise. This work involves liaising with Victoria Police, Department of Justice and Regulation and other agencies in relation to the:
advising and training of OPP staff in relation to the issue
issuing of formal Director’s Guidelines or other mechanisms for managing the issue
conducting of relevant matters or appeals in court
reporting to the Executive of the OPP in relation to the resolution of the issue.
Forensic Evidence and Law
The Policy and Specialised Legal Division coordinates all activity relating to reforms in the area of forensic evidence and the law. It also coordinates all forensic evidence issues within the OPP and closely liaises with external agencies, particularly the Victoria Police Forensic Science Centre.
Other functions include:
Mutual Assistance Applications
Reward Notice Approvals
DPP authorisations and delegations
Maintaining a number of important OPP registers such as the costs register, risks register and conflict of interest register.