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.
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:
Local Court lawyerThis 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 solicitorThe lawyer who prepares the case for trial and instructs the prosecutor during a trial.
Trial AdvocateThis is an experienced lawyer who will prosecute the trial in the District Court.
Crown ProsecutorThis is a barrister who prosecutes the trial in the District or Supreme Courts.
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.
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:
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
You can contact the Witness Assistance Service (WAS) on:Sydney: (02) 9285 2502Outside Sydney: 1800 814 534 Toll free