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The Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions
Select a link below for more information about the role of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) and the Witness Assistance Service (WAS).
The ODPP is the independent prosecuting authority of the State Government and prosecutes all serious criminal offences in NSW. The ODPP is responsible to the Attorney General for the functions of the Office.
The ODPP prosecutes in accordance with the prosecution guidelines that can be found on the ODPP website.
The ODPP does not investigate crime; this is the role of police. The Office advises the police which cases can be prosecuted before the courts and then carries out the prosecution in those cases.
The ODPP lawyers appear in criminal cases in the Local, District and Supreme Courts. The ODPP WAS provides information, support and assistance to victims of crime and witnesses in cases being prosecuted by the Office.
The ODPP is committed to keeping victims of crime informed of the conduct of the case, consulting with you in relation to the prosecution of the crime, and assisting you throughout the prosecution.
The ODPP represents the State, not individual victims. Therefore the ODPP, while considering your views and while recognising the important role you may play as a witness for the prosecution, has to make decisions in the general public interest.
A brief overview of the criminal prosecution process and the role of the ODPP
When the accused is charged with a serious criminal offence by the police, the case is referred by the police to the ODPP.
The ODPP will review the case to see whether there is sufficient evidence to prosecute in the courts.
If the ODPP decides that the case should not proceed because there is insufficient evidence in the case or for other reasons, this will be communicated to the victim.
Less serious charges are heard in the Local Court before a Magistrate. These cases are usually prosecuted by a police prosecutor and not the ODPP.
More serious matters are heard in the District or Supreme Courts before a Judge and usually a jury.
If you are the victim of the crime or the family of the victim, you are likely to have contact with a number of people from the ODPP. These may include:
The ODPP is a large organisation and you may have a number of different people involved in the case at different stages of the process.
- Local Court lawyer
This is a lawyer who is experienced in running hearings in the Local Court. The Local Court lawyer will prepare the case for a hearing or trial.
- Witness Assistance Service (WAS)
The Witness Assistance Service provides information, referral and support for victims of violent crime and vulnerable witnesses.
- Instructing solicitor
The lawyer who prepares the case for trial and instructs the prosecutor during a trial.
- Trial Advocate
This is an experienced lawyer who will prosecute the trial in the District Court.
- Crown Prosecutor
This is a barrister who prosecutes the trial in the District or Supreme Courts.
The ODPP Witness Assistance Service (WAS)
The WAS is part of the ODPP and works closely with other organisations to assist victims and witnesses.
There are Witness Assistance Officers based in each ODPP office around New South Wales. There are Aboriginal WAS Officers who can assist indigenous victims and witnesses.
The Witness Assistance Service provides a service to both adults and children.
Priority is given to:
- Victims of sexual assault
- Family members of the deceased in driving or homicide cases
- Children and young people under the age of 18 years
- People with a disability
- People with history of mental health concerns
- People from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds
- People who are experiencing particular trauma difficulties about coming to court
- People who identify as Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander (ATSI) - there are three ATSI WAS Officers in the ODPP, based in Sydney, Dubbo and Newcastle
The Witness Assistance Service aims to assist victims and witnesses in the following ways:
- Providing information about the legal process
- Discussing with people their needs and requirements and giving information about other services that might be able to help
- Communicating with the lawyer handling the case
- Organising and attending meetings with lawyers when necessary
- Providing information about victims rights and special provisions for giving evidence
- Supporting people throughout the process
WAS Officers can help people get ready for court by:
- Preparing witnesses including children for giving evidence in court
- Liaising with prosecution lawyers
- Arranging a visit to a court and other facilities to become familiar with the environment
- Finding ways of coping with coming to court and with being a witness
- Arranging support for victims who are giving evidence in court
- Preparing people for court outcomes, such as “not guilty” verdicts
WAS also refers to other appropriate services for court preparation and support.
After the trial or hearing:
You can contact the Witness Assistance Service (WAS) on:
- WAS can provide an opportunity to talk about the experience of the court process and the final outcome
- If the accused has been found guilty, giving information about Victim Impact Statements and the Sentencing Process
- After Sentencing, giving information about Victims Registers
- Making appropriate referrals for ongoing counselling and support
Sydney: 02 9285 2502
Outside Sydney: toll free 1800 814 534
TTY: 02 9285 8646