Legislative Council: Tuesday, August 29, 2023


Director of Public Prosecutions Office

The Hon. F. PANGALLO (15:14): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking a question of the Attorney-General about dysfunction in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Leave granted.

The Hon. F. PANGALLO: I note that The Advertiser is reporting today on a report that I had requested in June into the toxic workplace culture in the Office of the DPP conducted by consultant Rosslyn Cox. At the time, the Attorney-General batted away the serious problems I raised and that exist and have existed in the DPP since a similar report in 2017. The current DPP, Mr Hinton KC, as we know, a highly regarded prosecutor in this state, seems to have inherited a basket case.

Ms Cox's report is extremely blunt and unflattering of the management within the DPP, describing it as 'dysfunctional, reactive and broken', 'an organisation ill-equipped to manage the realities of the modern day'. My question to the Attorney-General is:

1. Has he discussed this with Mr Hinton, and did Mr Hinton offer his resignation?

2. Has he discussed this with the chief executive, Caroline Mealor, and has she offered her resignation or accepted any responsibility?

3. Does the Attorney-General understand how this toxic culture may have contributed severely on the administration of justice, affected matters before the courts, affected the many staff who have either left or are still in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions?

4. What is he going to do to restore the legal community's confidence in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions?

The Hon. K.J. MAHER (Minister for Aboriginal Affairs, Attorney-General, Minister for Industrial Relations and Public Sector) (15:16): I thank the honourable member for his question. In response to the direct questions that were asked, yes, I have discussed it with both the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Chief Executive of the Attorney-General's Department. No, resignations have not been offered in relation to those. If they were, I would try to talk them out of it. I think everyone in the Attorney-General's Department and within the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions do a tremendous job under challenging circumstances.

In relation to the honourable member's question about the effect on the justice system, I guess I can reiterate what I said earlier in my ministerial statement, that despite the challenges of the office Ms Cox did not find that the standard of work produced by the office had fallen. To the contrary, staff continue to maintain their commitment to assisting the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in filling the director's functions.

As I have said here before, the sort of work that the DPP has done in the past and continues to do is difficult work. You are at the end of a system where you see the worst in humanity, the worst that humans treat other humans in some of the cases that the office deals with. It is challenging work.

In relation to the report itself, that has been tabled in this chamber today, so members will be free to look at it as they see fit. In relation to the management of the office, the report made 19 recommendations to ensure the office is the most safe and effective workplace it can be, and the director and his executive team have accepted the findings and will be implementing all of the recommendations.