Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Statutory Function Statistics

Statutory Function Statistics

No Bill Applications

After a defendant has been committed for trial, the question sometimes arises whether the prosecution should continue. This can arise either as a result of an application by the defendant or on our own initiative. A submission made to the Director to discontinue such a matter is known as a ‘no Bill’ application.

The Director’s power to discontinue is delegated to the CDPP Practice Group Deputy Directors and branch heads who make these decisions in certain circumstances.

In the past year there were seven ‘no Bill’ applications received from defendants or their representatives decided by the Practice Group Deputy Director. Of these, two were granted and five were refused. A further nine prosecutions were discontinued on the basis of a recommendation from a prosecutor without prior representations from the defendant. A total of 11 prosecutions were discontinued, following decisions by Practice Group Deputy Directors.

In all of the 27 prosecutions that were discontinued, the primary reason for discontinuing was because there was insufficient evidence.

Almost all of the matters that were discontinued involved commercial fraud, tobacco importations and drug offences, with a small number involving other offences such as people smuggling and human trafficking.


The Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983 (the DPP Act) empowers the Director to give an undertaking—referred to as an indemnity— to a potential witness in three circumstances:

  • section 9(6) authorises the Director to give an indemnity to a potential witness in Commonwealth proceedings that any evidence the person may give, and anything derived from that evidence, will not be used in evidence against the person, other than in proceedings for perjury
  • section 9(6D) empowers the Director to give an indemnity to a person that he or she will not be prosecuted under Commonwealth law in respect of a specified offence
  • section 9(6B) empowers the Director to give an indemnity to a person that any evidence he or she may give in proceedings under state or territory law will not be used in evidence against them in a Commonwealth matter.

In the past year, we provided nine indemnities under sections 9(6) and one indemnity under section 9(6B), mostly in relation to drugs and related offences.

Taking Matters Over – Private Prosecutions

Traditionally it has been open to any person to bring a private prosecution for a criminal offence. That right is protected in Commonwealth matters by section 13 of the Crimes Act 1914 and is expressly preserved under section 10(2) of the DPP Act.

Under section 9(5) of the DPP Act, the Director has the power to take over a prosecution for a Commonwealth offence that has been instituted by another person. The Director is empowered to either carry on the prosecution or, if appropriate, to discontinue it.

The Director was required to exercise this power on four occasions during 2017–18. In each case the Director took over the prosecution and discontinued it as the evidence was either insufficient for the charges to proceed or alleged an offence not known to law.

‘Ex Officio’ Indictments

The Director has powers under section 6(2A)–(2D) of the DPP Act to institute prosecutions on indictment referred to as ex officio indictments. These powers are used in circumstances where a defendant consents to a prosecution on indictment without being examined or committed for trial or where a defendant stands trial on different charges from those on which they were committed, whether under Commonwealth, state or territory law. Section 6(2D) of the DPP Act provides that in any other case where the Director considers it appropriate to do so, the Director may institute a prosecution of a person on indictment for an indictable offence against the laws of the Commonwealth in respect of which the person has not been examined or committed for trial.

In certain circumstances the decision to present an ex officio indictment is delegated to Practice Group Deputy Directors and branch heads. In 2017–18 the Director or a Practice Group Deputy Director exercised ex officio powers on 19 occasions.

Consent to Conspiracy Proceedings

The Director’s consent is required before proceedings for Commonwealth conspiracy offences can commence.

In 2017–18 the Director consented to the commencement of conspiracy proceedings against 87 defendants in relation to 41 alleged conspiracies.