Specialised prosecutors

In some jurisdictions, there are prosecutors who specialise in dealing with family violence or sexual assault. The ACT Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP), for example, has for several years had specialised family violence prosecutors as part of the Family Violence Intervention Program (FVIP). They are assisted by three witness assistants. The ODPP states that:

Having specialist prosecutors allows for a consistency of approach and for continuity for victims. Specialisation also enhances the relationships with other essential agencies—the police, the Office of Children and Youth and Family Support, the Domestic Violence Crisis Service and Victims Support ACT.[2]

There may be significant value in specialised prosecutors dealing with family violence issues, including cases of sexual assault. This appears to have been of significant benefit in the ACT, and the weight of evidence in the US suggests that, provided such units are adequately funded, they are effective. There are also potential benefits when specialised prosecutors work in conjunction with specialised courts, as noted below, as their greater understanding of the nature and dynamics of family violence and sexual assault improves outcomes and levels of victim satisfaction.

The Commissions consider, however, that further exploration of this issue is required to justify making a proposal. It may be that other options, such as specialised training for all prosecutors or prosecution guidelines specific to family violence (as, for example, already exist in some Australian jurisdictions), are better approaches. The Commissions invite stakeholders to provide further information on whether there is value in creating positions for specialised prosecutors for family violence matters.

Question 20–2 What are the benefits of specialised family violence prosecutors, and the disadvantages or challenges associated with them, if any? Could the benefits of specialised prosecutors be achieved in other ways, such as by training or guidelines on family violence?

[2]Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ACT), Annual Report 2008–2009 (2009), 15.