Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the role of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecution (CDPP)?

The Office of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is the independent prosecuting authority responsible for prosecuting alleged offences against Commonwealth law. The Office prosecutes a wide range of offences including less serious offences, known as summary offences and more serious matters known as indictable offences. The CDPP does not investigate crimes, this role is performed by other agencies such as the Australian Federal Police. The CDPP is responsible for making decisions such as whether or not to prosecute and what charges should be laid. The Prosecution Policy of the Commonwealth sets out the guidelines to be followed by the CDPP when making decisions in relation to the prosecution of Commonwealth offences. This Policy is a public document and may be accessed via this website or by contacting any CDPP Office and requesting a copy.

Is the Commonwealth prosecutor my lawyer?

No. CDPP lawyers do not represent individuals, they are government sector employees who conduct prosecutions on behalf of the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions.  The CDPP represents the whole community and must take the public interest and other factors into account when making important legal decisions such as deciding whether or not to prosecute a matter.  However, the CDPP does recognise the important role played by victims in the legal process and at all times seeks to treat them with respect for their dignity. The CDPP aims to ensure that, where appropriate, victim’s views are taken into account at various stages of the prosecution process.

Do I have to pay for the lawyers involved in the prosecution?

No. CDPP lawyers are employed and paid by the Commonwealth Government.

Is the same lawyer involved in the matter from start to finish?

A number of CDPP lawyers may work on any one particular case and they are known as Case Officers. Some matters go to trial and in such cases it is common for the CDPP to employ another lawyer, sometimes known as Counsel or Barrister, to prosecute at trial. The CDPP Case Officer will usually work closely with Counsel during the course of a trial.

How do I find out what is happening with the case I’m involved in?

If you wish to find out what is happening with the matter you are involved in please contact the relevant CDPP Office and ask to speak with the relevant Case Officer (contact numbers for all Offices are available on this website). If you would like to be kept updated in relation to the progress of the case, please advise the Case Officer of your wishes and they will ensure this occurs. If possible, when calling the Office please advise the receptionist of the name of the accused as this will assist them to identify the relevant Case Officer handling the particular case you are involved in.

How long will it take for the case to go through the prosecution process?

The legal process can be very long and complicated. A wide range of factors will serve to impact upon the time it takes for a matter to go through the court process in its entirety. In most cases the process will take a matter of months, unfortunately in other cases it may take years particularly in matters where trials and appeals take place.Please contact the relevant CDPP Case Officer if you wish to discuss how long the particular case you are involved in is likely to take. If you wish to find out more about the steps in the Commonwealth prosecution process more detailed information is available at the following links:

The police took some of my personal property during the investigation, when will I get it back?

In most cases, your personal property should be returned to you when it is no longer required for prosecution purposes. Sometimes private property may need to be used in court as evidence so the police may need to keep it until they are sure that all court proceedings are finalised. If you would like to know when you can expect to receive your property back you should contact the police officer involved or the CDPP Case Officer.

I’ve already provided a statement, why do I need to go to court and give evidence?

The statement you made is not strictly evidence. It is an indication to a person who has been charged with a criminal offence, called the defendant, of what you will say if called upon to do so in a court. Your statement is required to be given to the defendant, so that they can understand the case against them and prepare a defence if they are pleading not guilty to the charge.

What you say in court, after swearing an oath or affirmation, is the real evidence upon which a Magistrate or a jury will base their verdict about the defendant’s guilt or innocence. Only in limited circumstances can your statement be admitted in contested court proceedings without you being called to give your evidence orally. The defendant has a right to hear and test your evidence in open court and that is why you need to go to court notwithstanding the fact that you have already made a statement about what you know in relation to the matter.

Will I get to meet the prosecutor prior to the trial?

Prosecutors often meet witnesses just prior to their court attendance. Such meetings are known as conferences and may involve the prosecutor providing you with information concerning the trial process and discussing your role as a witness (e.g. what date and time you are likely to be required). The prosecutor may also ask you some questions in relation to your statement so it can be a good idea to read it beforehand. If you do not have, or have lost a copy of your statement, please contact either the police officer or Case Officer to obtain another copy.  Conferences also provide you with the opportunity to ask questions of the prosecutor or raise any concerns you might have. You are able to bring a support person with you to a conference but please bear in mind that for legal reasons they may not be able to sit in on the entire conference with you. Your support person should be someone who is not a witness in the same matter.

I’m a witness in a trial, do I have to attend court for the whole trial?

The prosecutor will ensure that you are advised of the date and time that you are required to attend court to give your evidence. Unfortunately, it can sometimes be very difficult to predict when particular witnesses will actually start giving their evidence given the unpredictable nature of court proceedings. Whilst efforts will be made to reduce any inconvenience to you please be aware that delays may occur.

You must wait outside of the court room prior to giving your evidence. Once you have completed your evidence in court, you will be excused from attending further by the Judge or Magistrate and so will be free to leave the court building. If you wish to observe the remainder of the trial proceedings from the body of the court (called the public gallery) you should first seek the approval of the prosecutor. On rare occasions witnesses may need to be called back to court to give further evidence in the same trial.

What will happen when I go to court to give my evidence?

You should wait outside the courtroom prior to giving your evidence (unless alternative arrangements have been made) and will be called by a court officer when you are required to enter the courtroom. You will be shown to the witness box and be asked to either swear an oath on the Bible or make an affirmation. An affirmation is a solemn declaration to tell the truth without reference to the Bible.  It is your choice whether you wish to swear on the Bible or make an affirmation.

The prosecutor will ask you questions first, this is called evidence in chief. The defence lawyer will then ask you questions and this is called cross examination. The prosecutor may or may not ask you some further questions and this is called re-examination. The Judge or Magistrate may also ask some questions of you. When you have completed giving your evidence, you will be excused by the Judge (or Magistrate) and are free to leave.

What should I do if I am scared and hold concerns for my safety?

You should advise the Police if you have any fears or concerns for your safety or experience any form of intimidation that may be related to your role as a victim or witness.It is also important to advise the Case Officer or Counsel if you are afraid of the seeing the accused at court so that any available assistance may be arranged.

English is not my first language – what assistance is available?

If you have difficulties speaking or understanding English please ensure that you, or someone close to you, informs the CDPP Case Officer so they can arrange for an interpreter to be available for any conferences and for your court attendance. The CDPP will pay for any interpreter services required for conferences and court attendance.

I have a disability that will impact on my ability to give evidence, what can I do?

If you have any sort of disability or special needs that you think could  impact on your ability to attend court and give evidence, please contact the relevant Office and advise the CDPP Case Officer as soon as possible so that efforts can be made to arrange appropriate assistance.

I have to take time off from work, can I be reimbursed for lost wages?

If your employer will not pay you for the time you are attending court or conferences, you are able to claim the lost wages or salary that you would have been paid. Alternatively, if your employer does pay you for the time you are attending court or conferences, your employer may make a claim for reimbursement of your lost wages or salary.The CDPP will provide you with a Guide to Claiming Witness Expenses and a Witness Expenses Claim Form to assist you with this area.

I have to travel a long way to come to court and would need to stay overnight. Is there any assistance available?

The CDPP will arrange and pay for travel and accommodation expenses for those who are required to travel from overseas, interstate or where it would otherwise be unreasonable for you to return home. Such arrangements will be made prior to the date that you are required to attend court.

The CDPP will provide all prosecution witnesses with a Guide to Claiming Witness Expenses and a Witness Expenses Claim Form. You are entitled to claim travelling, accommodation and meal expenses as set out in the Guide. When your court attendance is completed you will need to fill in the Witness Expenses Claim Form and return it to the relevant CDPP Office for processing.

What is a Victim Impact Statement?

A Victim Impact Statement (VIS) is a written statement generally made by a victim of crime that contains details about the impact that a crime has had on them. It is a voluntary statement. The VIS is presented to the court after the offender has been found guilty or entered pleas of guilty to the court and before the sentence is handed down. Amongst a range of matters the Court must take into account any injury, loss or damage resulting from the offence and the personal circumstances of the victim. A VIS is one way, but not the only way, a Court is informed of these relevant matters. If you wish to submit a VIS you will need to discuss this with the relevant CDPP Case Officer prior to any sentencing hearings.