Police Prosecutors and the Justice System

The criminal justice system is under strain with Police Prosecutors currently experiencing a marked increase to their already heavy workload.

The impact of this strain is felt by all who work in the criminal justice system, and it has the potential to negatively impact on court outcomes.

Having an adequate and sustainable number of Police Prosecutors has always been essential for our criminal justice system to function at its best. Any decisions that have the effect of reducing or replacing Police Prosecutors with personnel devoid of policing experience compromises the current standard of service provided to the community by police.

Civil Advocates were initially introduced to support Police Prosecutors in family violence matters. Complaints of sta shortages has resulted in an increase in the number of civil advocate positions to assist the increasing workload of police prosecutors. While well-intended, the rise in the number of Civil Advocates has come at the expense of police prosecutor positions, which have remained stagnant. We are concerned that an erosion in the number of sworn police prosecutors will have a deleterious impact on the overall operation of the justice system.

Whilst Police Prosecutors are overall supportive of the role of Civil Advocates, they recognise the value and the critical knowledge that their own previous experience as serving members provides in prosecuting police matters. It is incumbent on the Government and Victoria Police, that sworn Police Prosecution positions are not only maintained, but continue to grow with their workload.

TPAV is also of the strong view that court processes involving Victoria Police Prosecutors should evolve to embrace available technology and become more efficient.

Information sharing between courts, Legal Professionals, Police Prosecutors and Police Informants is largely paper-based and needs to better reflect current technology. Despite acknowledged resource challenges from all stakeholders within the court system, little modernisation of processes has occurred in this area over the past two decades. Despite repeated attempts by Victoria Police to introduce initiatives like the `electronic brief’, refinement, such change has been confined at the margins and current processes remain slow and cumbersome.

Considerable resources are currently wasted within Victoria Police by Informants and Prosecutors in order to enable the antiquated and overloaded Criminal Justice System to operate.

Recommendations:

  • There should be a restriction of Civil Advocates as an alternative to Police Prosecutors to prosecuting civil matters dealing with family violence only.
  • Any expansion in the role of Civil Advocates must not include practice within the therapeutic courts. Therapeutic courts deal with criminal matters and it is important that victims of crime see police represented in the judicial process.
  • There is an immediate need for 19 additional Police Prosecutors to keep up with recent unfunded government initiatives such as night and weekend courts.
  • A more streamlined criminal justice process needs to be adopted using modern technology to give proper effect to the intent of the Preliminary Brief system within the Criminal Procedures Act to maximise the efficient use of police time and to better support judicial processes.