Legislative Council: Tuesday, June 27, 2023


Director of Public Prosecutions Office

In reply to the Hon. F. PANGALLO ().1 June 2023).

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector): As Attorney-General, I am grateful to the staff of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) for their important contributions to justice in this state. They, along with other staff across the Attorney-General's Department, should be commended for their vital work.

The work done by staff in the ODPP is critically important, but also highly challenging. Lawyers and other ODPP staff regularly deal with confronting material, sensitive and urgent matters, and high work volumes.

This government is committed to promoting wellbeing and safety in all workplaces, including in the ODPP. There are a number of challenges being faced in that office, and it is for that reason that the Attorney-General's Department engaged an independent consultant, Ms Rosslyn Cox, to undertake a workplace wellbeing survey and provide recommendations. I am informed that this is the first targeted review into ODPP staff wellbeing undertaken since 2017.

I consider it important that ODPP staff feel able to fully and frankly engage in this process. Additionally, any personal information provided by staff must be handled with the appropriate level of confidentiality. It is therefore not my intention to table Ms Cox's report.

The state government has also provided additional resourcing to the ODPP to deal with large and complex matters, noting the resourcing impact of such matters. The 2022-23 state budget provided $6 million in additional funding for Operation Ironside, as well as a further $6.4 million in the 2022-23 Mid-Year Budget Review. In addition to Operation Ironside, a further $2.2 million was provided in the 2022-23 Mid-Year Budget review for other complex legal matters.

The honourable member also asked a number of questions of a statistical nature, on which I have sought advice from the Attorney-General's Department. I have been advised:

6. There is no useful metric of cases being 'pulled' or having 'fallen over'. Charges may be withdrawn if the director forms the view that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. An alleged victim may decide that they do not want to give evidence and the director may not consider that it is in the public interest to compel them. Defendants may be found not guilty if the jury is not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that they committed the offences with which they are charged. Such is the operation of an effective criminal justice system.

There were significant changes made to the criminal justice system in March 2018, known as 'major indictable reform'. Those changes significantly altered the way that charges progress through the courts and the points at which the Office of the DPP is involved in assessing the case. That makes comparison of conviction rates prior to 2018 difficult. Accordingly, my response is limited to the three financial years since those changes have been fully operational.

During this period, rates of conviction (post-committal) have remained generally stable:




There are also records of the number of occasions on which a nolle prosequi is entered. That might be a useful figure, because such an outcome may indicate a late assessment that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction. However, even the utility of that metric is limited because there are myriad reasons why this assessment may occur at a late stage (evidence may come to light at the last minute, a victim may decide that they cannot proceed, a crucial witness may die, etc). As with conviction rates, the number of nolle prosequi has also largely remained stable since major indictable reforms were implemented:




7. 170 staff have left the office since 2017. Of those, the following reasons have been given:

Appointed to judicial office—5



Transferred elsewhere in the public sector—67

Contract expired—26 (note that this does not include those employees who remained in the office but in employment of a different type, e.g. those who were in the administrative stream whose ASO classification contracts expired when they became legal officers upon admission to practice)

Employment terminated—1

TVSP or ESP—11

Death of employee—1

8. No ODPP staff have claims for injuries caused by any of these factors.