Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP)

25 years of Commitment

Date of Publication: 
5 March 2009

Author: Christopher Craigie SC, Date: 5/03/2009 Venue: CDPP 25th Anniversary Dinner, Old Parliament House, Canberra

Your Honour the Chief Justice, Mr Attorney, Chief Justice Higgins, Justice Lander, Justice Weinberg, Chief Judge Rozenes, distinguished guests, colleagues and friends:  Mr Attorney, on behalf of the Office it is a privilege to respond to your kind words.

This evening marks 25 years of commitment.  In establishing the Office of the DPP, the Commonwealth Parliament recognised the fundamental importance to the criminal justice system of an independent and effective prosecuting service, a service capable of prosecuting the most complex matters.  Of course it should be noted that the DPP Act established an Office to take over the work hitherto undertaken by the other agencies and individuals who had carried the distinction of prosecuting for the Crown in the right of the Commonwealth. The new Act made manifest a long held and bi-partisan conclusion that prosecution decisions should be removed from any connection with the political process and that such decisions be made independently from those responsible for investigations.  As any notion of politically influenced prosecutions was indeed a concept alien to our system of justice, the creation of an independent Office in the person of the DPP was a measure embraced by the Government and the Parliament as an important guarantor of the principle.

The Commonwealth through successive Governments has, for 25 years, remained committed to the crucial principle of independence upon which the Office was founded. It is appropriate then for me to thank our current Attorney and all the Commonwealth Attorneys over the history of the Commonwealth DPP for their commitment to the independence of the Office and their support for our work.  We are delighted that former Attorneys, the Hon Philip Ruddock, the Hon Daryl Williams QC and former Minister for Justice the Hon Christopher Ellison are with us this evening. It is important that I also acknowledge the CDPP’s strong relationship with the Attorney-General’s Department, with whom we work closely.  Unfortunately Mr Roger Wilkins is unable to join us this evening, but we are very pleased that a number of Senior Executives of the Department are able to celebrate with us. I pay tribute to each of my predecessor Directors of Public Prosecutions.  Each has contributed much in establishing, building, maintaining and operating the Office as a truly national prosecuting entity across the Commonwealth, in every State and Territory, and in Courts at every jurisdictional level.  In all these respects a tremendous contribution has been made by each Director, from the first, Ian Temby QC, the Honourable Justice Mark Weinberg, His Honour Chief Judge Michael Rozenes., the Honourable Chief Justice Brian Martin, and the CDPP’s longest serving Director, Damian Bugg QC. From a personal viewpoint I acknowledge a sense of indebtedness to all my predecessors.  What was passed to me by Damian Bugg QC was an Office that had benefited from skilled and committed leadership throughout its history. I am pleased that a number of State and Territory Directors of Public Prosecutions are also able to celebrate with us tonight.

The Australian Directors enjoy warm, cooperative and collegiate relationships.  Of course, the ties between us are underpinned by formal administrative arrangements that vest each of us with complementary powers to prosecute crime, both under the laws of the local state or territory jurisdiction and under those of the Commonwealth.  The result in terms of efficiency and public benefit is perhaps not widely known. I suspect this is because the arrangements work seamlessly and well.  The Australian Federation is in this respect supported by a strong fabric of cooperative prosecuting agencies across all the states and territories of the Commonwealth.

The laws of the Commonwealth, and accordingly the prosecution and proceeds of crime practices of my Office, have significantly expanded in the last quarter century. From its long standing practice involving fraud on the Commonwealth and the importation of serious drugs, the Commonwealth DPP now prosecutes in a great variety of areas.  The continuing adjustment and expansion in these areas reflects the times in which we live.  Major commitments extend to our part in supporting those who maintain and regulate the integrity of our share markets.  Others concern the integrity of our corporate entities and their practices in a truly free market. At the most fundamental level our work, together with that of our partner agencies may on occasion result in the prosecution of those who would do great physical harm to the security of the Commonwealth, its citizens, and the nation’s infrastructure. Our response translates into specialist practices in counter-terrorism, corporations offences, money laundering, people trafficking, technology enabled crime including online child sexual exploitation, competition law, and offences impacting on the environment and public safety in air travel.

We are increasingly prosecuting matters involving individual victims.  We look forward to new challenges in prosecuting in the criminal cartel area and conducting trials in the Federal Court.  For anyone who reflects upon it, the scope of our organisation’s commitment demonstrates that our offices meet a massive demand with remarkable economy and efficiency. If one were to identify a key feature of the CDPP’s development in the last 25 years this would be its continuing and growing capacity to take on new challenges and to adapt with new skills, expertise and effective responses.  The management and mastery of diverse areas of practice is a vital component for the Commonwealth in achieving its law enforcement objectives. From its inception, the practice of the CDPP has routinely involved very large and complex matters.  Increasingly, these matters have an international dimension, such as in the management and presentation of overseas evidence.  Matters of this kind often mean breaking new ground, although never in the sense of departing from the Prosecution Policy. That, at base requires the fundamentals of a prima facie case with a reasonable prospect of securing a conviction and, with those matters being established, a prosecution being in the public interest.

The CDPP has marshalled new technology to assist in the management and presentation of complex prosecutions.   We have worked successfully with referring agencies and with the courts in making significant advances in presenting evidence effectively.  The Office continues to work in advancing mechanisms directed towards focusing trials on the real issues and for strong case management to bring efficiencies to the criminal justice system.  I note that this has been a cause to which several of my predecessors devoted much energy, both during their terms and thereafter.    We receive briefs of evidence from over forty committed agencies that investigate criminal matters.  It is fitting and welcome that the leaders of many of these agencies, with whom we work so closely, are able to join us this evening.  I want to acknowledge our close relationship with the Australian Federal Police and the investigative support provided throughout the history of the CDPP.   I am delighted that the Commissioner is able to join us this evening. The importance of our relationships with partner agencies cannot be underestimated in bringing about the shared objective of successful prosecutions conducted with integrity. Successful prosecution action relies on sound and productive partnership with referring agencies, relationships based on mutual understanding of our respective roles and a shared understanding of goals.  The system of criminal justice that prevails across this Commonwealth is one that regards success and effectiveness in prosecution as being inseparable from ethical integrity and fairness.  I may say that it is also my personal observation and experience that fairness and integrity are the most formidable weapons in any prosecutor’s armoury.

I have stressed the importance of the CDPP’s prosecutorial independence.  This is an essential element in maintaining the vital qualities of fairness and integrity in the prosecution process.  Alongside our independence is the corollary responsibility on the part of this Office to contribute to whole of Government criminal justice objectives, to be accountable, and to be mindful of the need to be responsible in our use of valuable public resources. We recognise the importance of pursuing opportunities to assist partner agencies.  One of the areas in which we have a significant involvement is the provision of legal advice to agencies at the investigative stage.  Another is our commitment in assisting agencies train their investigators.  These are important features of our external relationships and we approach them with enthusiasm.  This involvement benefits the investigation process and undoubtedly benefits the resulting prosecutions. This evening we proudly celebrate the commitment and dedication exemplified by the staff of the Office, past and present.  The contribution that they have made to the development of the Office and to the Australian criminal justice system is tremendous.  It is this commitment, dedication and strong work ethic that have built and maintained the reputation of my Office. This contribution has been made not only by those who have conducted prosecutions and proceeds of crime action, but also by those who support the work of the Office.  In addition to legal staff, we rely upon the contribution of many other skilled individuals who make the work of prosecuting possible.  This includes those who are responsible for the CDPP’s Resource Management, finance, human resources, libraries and information technology.  The contribution of all areas of the Office to ensuring that our work is effectively undertaken deserves recognition. I acknowledge the commitment of all our people in eleven offices around Australia.  The CDPP has strong and capable regional leaders and officers, and this has been the case throughout its history.  I am similarly fortunate within Head Office to be supported by a dedicated and experienced team.  The continuing strength and quality of the Office is the result of the CDPP’s sustained commitment to recruit, to develop, to train, to provide opportunities, and to mentor its staff.  To state a trite but crucial truth, they are our greatest asset and we continue to see the fruits of their commitment on a day to day basis across our national practice. I wish to take this opportunity to acknowledge and commend the professional skill, learning in the law and commitment to ethics that has always been, and indeed remains, a hallmark of the Office.  On joining the Office I was struck by the strong CDPP culture embracing the highest standards of competence, commitment and hard work.  This extends from the most junior to the most senior members of staff in all areas.  I am very proud tonight to honour the significant contribution made by CDPP staff to build and provide the Australian community with a high quality prosecution service. It is clear to me whenever I consider the quality and calibre of the people working in every part of the national Office that this is a most fortunate organisation. Our good fortune has been built with effort and commitment under the leadership of my five predecessors.   Now, in my term of Office the commitment continues, hopefully with some guidance on my part, but with the certainty of continuing to rely on what I have found to be a quite inspiring level of loyalty to the Office. The calibre of an organisation is never more apparent than in times when the organisation is tested, for it is in testing times (from which we are not immune) that the true measure of an organisation shines through.  We do not shy away from internal reflection or from transparency and accountability.  Indeed we seek opportunities to review and improve our practice, remaining true to our touchstone, the Prosecution Policy.

The Commonwealth set worthy objectives for the CDPP in the Prosecution Policy in 1986, referring to the 1981 report of the United Kingdom’s Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure, which stated that a prosecution system should be judged by the broad standards of fairness, openness, accountability and efficiency, summed up in the single overriding test of a successful system:  Is it of a kind to have, and does it in fact have the confidence of the public it serves? The Office has resoundingly met such an expectation.  An effective prosecution service makes a strong contribution to a fair, safe and just society where laws are respected and the confidence of the public in the criminal justice system is maintained.  This Office makes such a contribution and the CDPP’s strength to continue that contribution consists of its people, committed to the principles upon which the Office was founded. The charge of the Office is to uphold the laws of the Commonwealth. It is a charge all in my Office regard as a privilege. It is a charge that we take very seriously, and that we seek to discharge with dedication, determination and commitment.  Of this you can be sure.  The vision of the Office is that it strives to provide an effective national prosecution service for the Australian Community.  Its purpose is to provide an ethical, high quality and independent prosecution service for Australia in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth. I am confident the Office of the Commonwealth DPP is in an excellent position to meet the challenges of prosecuting in the 21st Century on behalf of the Australian community.

Thank you all for joining us to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Office and the commitment that has been made by so many to establishing and developing this important national institution.