The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is an independent prosecution service established by Parliament to prosecute alleged offences against Commonwealth law. We aim to provide an effective, ethical, high quality and independent criminal prosecution service for Australia in accordance with the Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth.
The CDPP generally conducts Commonwealth prosecutions in the State and Territory courts of Australia. Our work is not limited to only litigation in court. We are also involved in a range of other work such as assessing evidence, drafting charges and providing legal advice and assistance to investigators. Commonwealth offending can often involve very large and complex briefs of evidence which may take significant time and expertise to consider and formulate strategies to prosecute.
CDPP prosecutors appear in all levels of the courts from Magistrates Courts to the High Court, including the Federal Court. We are involved at all stages of the prosecution process including mentions, bail, summary matters, committals, trials and appeals. This differs somewhat from the majority of State and Territory DPPs where the emphasis is mainly on committals and trials and there are police prosecutors who handle many matters at earlier stages.
In general terms, there are two basic types of prosecution action conducted by the CDPP. Offences dealt with by a Magistrates or Local Court, and are referred to as ‘summary offences’. In some of these matters, there has been an election made to have the matter dealt with in a Magistrates’ Court. In other matters, there is no election, and the matter must proceed before a Magistrate according to the relevant legislation.
Offences before superior courts are dealt with ‘on indictment’. All States and mainland Territories have a Supreme Court. Some jurisdictions, but not all, also have an intermediate Court, called either a District Court or a County Court. Where Commonwealth matters on indictment are contested, these are heard before a judge and jury. Importantly, in Commonwealth matters a jury must return a unanimous verdict, as opposed to a majority verdict in State and Territory matters.