At VOCAL, we believe that victims can manage the criminal process with minimal additional trauma only when they are fully informed about the court process and what is expected of them. We find that if properly informed about their rights, role and the process, victims tend to be more satisfied with the court process irrespective of whether the accused is found guilty. It is not our role to undermine the rights of the accused, but it is time that justice is afforded to everyone affected by crimes.
It’s very important that victims of crime understand that, in Australia, the very basis of criminal law is that a person is innocent until proven guilty, in a court of law. This remains the case no matter what they have done, or what suffering or trauma is experienced by the victims and others affected.
There is no ‘presumption of guilt’ against accused persons and they also have a right to silence. The role of the Crown (Prosecution) is to represent the State of NSW and to prove the guilt of the offender/s. People affected by crime, including the victim, witnesses and others are not allowed legal representation. The accused has a right to legal representation and do not have to prove their innocence.
If an offender is found not guilty, the victim has no right to appeal the decision. If an offender is found guilty, they have the right to appeal the conviction and/or sentence imposed on them.
Representation of victims and other affected by crimes as well as appeals against verdicts and sentencing, are the responsibility of the Crown.
The role of Police
The police will:
– manage the investigation of crimes,
– arrest and charge the alleged offender/s, if identified.
– prepare a brief of evidence for the prosecution, and
– appear in court, if required.
For more information about the police role see www.police.nsw.gov.au
The role of the Prosecution
The prosecution represents the Crown and decides whether there is enough evidence to take a case to court. If a case does go to a court, the prosecution also presents the case against the accused, which the court uses in deciding their guilt or innocence.
Police prosecutors deal with 95% of criminal cases heard in the Local Court. While they are part of the police force, they do not wear uniforms and are tasked with prosecuting rather than apprehending and charging suspects.
In more serious matters the Crown is represented by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions. In some serious cases, a Witness Assistance Officer, may also be allocated to support adults and children who are victims, family members or witnesses for the prosecution, to provide help throughout the court process.
See www.odpp.nsw.gov.au for guidelines for prosecutors.