Prosecutor duties

A prosecutor is a "minister of justice". The prosecutor's principal role is to assist the court to arrive at the truth and to do justice between the community and the accused according to law and the dictates of fairness.

The duties of a prosecutor in the criminal context are quite distinct from those imposed upon litigants or representatives in other jurisdictions.

The Prosecution Guidelines issued by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions accurately describe the role of a prosecutor in the following terms:

“A prosecutor is a "minister of justice". The prosecutor's principal role is to assist the court to arrive at the truth and to do justice between the community and the accused according to law and the dictates of fairness.

A prosecutor is not entitled to act as if representing private interests in litigation. A prosecutor represents the community and not any individual or sectional interest. A prosecutor acts independently, yet in the general public interest. The "public interest" is to be understood in that context as an historical continuum: acknowledging debts to previous generations and obligations to future generations.”

This is a heavy duty, and a difficult balance to strike. In Richardson v R [1974] HCA 19 the court described the prosecutor’s task as ensuring “a proper presentation of the Crown case conformably with the dictates of fairness to the accused.”

Richardson

Richardson v R [1974] HCA 19

“What is important is that it is for the prosecutor to decide in the particular case what are the relevant factors and, in the light of those factors, to determine the course which will ensure a proper presentation of the Crown case conformably with the dictates of fairness to the accused.”