Our role in the County and Supreme Courts

The public prosecutions service is responsible for prosecuting the most serious crimes that occur in Victoria. These are called ‘indictable’ matters.

We do not investigate crimes. Other agencies investigate crimes and refer the matters to us for prosecution in the Supreme and County Courts.

Sometimes we are asked by an agency to provide advice on issues including the sufficiency of evidence to file charges, and what the appropriate charges should be.

Most of our prosecutions are referred to us by Victoria Police. Other agencies that refer matters to us include WorkSafe, relating to deaths or serious injury in workplaces, and the Department of Primary Industries relating to poaching and other fisheries crimes.

We work closely with the ‘informant’ from the referring agency in the course of the prosecutions.

The matters referred to us for prosecution in the courts generally involve:

  • violent assaults, aggravated burglary, affray, armed robbery and other general serious crime
  • sexual offences
  • drug related offences
  • and homicide, culpable driving, commercial crime and fraud, corruption, organised crime, mental impairment and occupational health and safety.

We prosecute about 170 matters each year that have involved the death of one or more victims.

Our role in the Magistrates’ Court

Committal hearings

Before a matter goes to trial before a judge and jury, we are responsible for presenting all the relevant evidence at a committal hearing in the Magistrates’ Court. At this hearing, the magistrate determines whether the matter should go to trial.

Summary offences

Victoria Police is responsible for prosecuting most of the less serious crimes in the Magistrates’ Court. However, in certain circumstances, we are asked to prosecute these matters – such as when the prosecution involves a police member.

Our role in appeals

We prepare and conduct appeals on behalf of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) in the County Court, Court of Appeal, the civil jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and the High Court of Australia.

Most of our appeals work involves responding to appeals against conviction and/or sentence by a convicted offender. The DPP can also initiate appeals against a sentence.

Our role in supporting victims and witnesses

We have social workers who provide information and assistance to witnesses, victims of crime and their families to ensure they are supported throughout the criminal justice process.

Matters involving sexual assault, family violence or the death of a victim are given priority assistance.

Our role in confiscations

We have senior solicitors, who work with forensic accountants seconded to the Office of Public Prosecutions (OPP), who work together to confiscate assets connected with criminal activity. Many of these matters are settled by negotiation.

Our role in law reform

We contribute our expertise in criminal prosecutions to major legislative reviews. We provide assistance to organisations such as the Sentencing Advisory Council and the Victoria Law Reform Commission; contribute to discussion and reviews about draft legislation impacting on criminal prosecutions; and make submissions to the Department of Justice on significant reforms.

Our involvement in law reform is harnessed through our representation on a number of standing committees and advisory groups overseeing specific developments in the criminal justice system. These have included the Hate Crime Review Working Group, the Victim Impact Statement Reference Group and the Bail Steering Committee.

Our role in improving the criminal justice system

We are represented on numerous committees and working groups aimed at bringing criminal justice system stakeholders together to identify and implement improvements. These include the Criminal Justice System Steering Committee, chaired by the Department of Justice, which identifies and addresses issues relating to the operation of the criminal justice system.

The OPP has led an innovative education program aimed at improving the way sexual offence matters are handled by the criminal justice system. The Sexual Offences Interactive Legal Education Program (ilep) involved the OPP liaising and consulting with several stakeholders within the criminal justice system as part of a collaborative approach.