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The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is the office or official charged with the prosecution of criminal offences in several criminal jurisdictions around the world. The title is used mainly in jurisdictions that are or have been members of the Commonwealth of nations.
Australia has a Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, which was set up by the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1983 and started operations in 1984. The eight States and territories of Australia also have their own DPPs.
Each state and territory has its own DPP. The Office of DPP operates independently of Government. Ultimate authority for authorising prosecutions lies with the Attorney General. However, since that is a political post, and it is desired to have a non-political (public service) post carry out this function in most circumstances, the prosecutorial powers of the AG are normally delegated to the DPP.
It is common for those who hold the office of Commonwealth or State DPP later to be appointed to a high judicial office. Examples include Mark Weinberg, now a justice of the Court of Appeal in the Supreme Court of Victoria; Michael Rozenes, now Chief Judge of the County Court of Victoria; Brian Martin, now Chief Justice of the Northern Territory; John McKechnie, now a justice of the Supreme Court of Western Australia; and Paul Coghlan, now a justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria.
The Director of Public Prosecutions of Belize is the official responsible for the prosecution of criminal offences. He or she heads the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In Canada, each province's Crown Attorney Office is responsible for the conduct of criminal prosecutions. In Ontario, local Crown Attorney in the Criminal Law Division are in charge of criminal cases.
Recent legislation passed by Parliament split the conduct of federal prosecutions from the Department of Justice, and created the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (officially called the Public Prosecution Service of Canada). The Public Prosecution Service of Canada (PPSC) is a federal government organization, created on December 12, 2006, when the Director of Public Prosecutions Act, Part 3 of the Federal Accountability Act, came into force.
The PPSC fulfills the responsibilities of the Attorney General of Canada in the discharge of his criminal law mandate by prosecuting criminal offences under federal jurisdiction and by contributing to strengthening the criminal justice system.
In this regard, the PPSC assumes the role played within the Department of Justice Canada by the former Federal Prosecution Service (FPS), and takes on additional responsibilities for prosecuting new fraud offences under the Financial Administration Act as well as offences under the Canada Elections Act. Unlike the FPS, which was part of the Department of Justice, the PPSC is an independent organization, reporting to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada.
The PPSC is responsible for prosecuting offences under more than 50 federal statutes and for providing prosecution-related legal advice to law enforcement agencies. Cases prosecuted by the PPSC include those involving drugs, organized crime, terrorism, tax law, money laundering and proceeds of crime, crimes against humanity and war crimes, Criminal Code offences in the territories, and a large number of federal regulatory offences.
The creation of the PPSC reflects the decision to make transparent the principle of prosecutorial independence, free from any improper influence.
The mandate of the PPSC is set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. The Act calls on the PPSC to provide prosecutorial advice to law enforcement agencies, and to act as prosecutor in matters prosecuted by the Attorney General of Canada on behalf of the Crown.
In addition, the mandate includes initiating and conducting prosecutions on behalf of the Crown with respect to offences under the Canada Elections Act.
The PPSC reports to Parliament through the Attorney General of Canada. The Director of Public Prosecutions Act states that the Director of Public Prosecutions acts “under and on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.” The relationship between the Attorney General and the Director is premised on the principles of respect for the independence of the prosecution function and the need to consult on important matters of general interest.
Safeguarding the Director's independence is the requirement that all instructions from the Attorney General be in writing and published in the Canada Gazette. In turn, the Director must inform the Attorney General of any prosecution or planned intervention that may raise important questions of general interest, allowing the Attorney General the opportunity to intervene in, or assume conduct of, a case. Additionally, the PPSC must provide the Attorney General with an annual report for tabling in Parliament.
The first and current Director of the PPSC is Brian J. Saunders LLB, LLM.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (Chinese: 刑事檢控專員) of Hong Kong heads the Prosecutions Division of the Department of Justice, which is responsible for prosecuting trials and appeals on behalf of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, providing legal advice to law enforcement agencies on investigations, acting on behalf of the Secretary for Justice in the institution of criminal proceedings, and providing advice to bureaux and departments on measures to reform the criminal law. The DPP is superintended by the Secretary for Justice, a political appointee, who is also accountable for the decisions of the DPP. The position title was until the handover of Hong Kong to China on 1 July 1997 Crown Prosecutor. The Secretary for Justice and the Department of Justice were, until 1997, named the Attorney General and the Legal Department, respectively.
The Director of Public Prosecutions has been responsible for prosecution of all indictable criminal offences in Ireland since the enactment of the Prosecution of Offences Act 1974. Before 1974 all crimes and offences were prosecuted at the suit of (after action taken by) the Attorney General. The DPP may also issue a certificate that a case should be referred to the Special Criminal Court, a juryless trial court usually reserved for terrorists and organised criminals.
The current Director of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions is Claire Loftus. James Hamilton, who had served as DPP for 12 years, announced in July 2011 that he will be taking early retirement and stepped down in November 2011.
List of DPPs since 1974:
In Norway the Director of Public Prosecutions (Riksadvokaten) is the head of the Norwegian Prosecuting Authority. The director has the coordinative leadership as well as the highest authority to prosecute criminal offences. The Director is directly involved only in certain cases, such as crimes for which the maximum penalty is 21 years in prison. The director is subordinate to the Government Cabinet, however, the cabinet has never reversed a decision of the Director of Public Prosecutions. Tor-Aksel Busch is the current Director and has been in that position since 1997.
In South Africa public prosecutions are conducted by an independent National Director of Public Prosecutions (NDPP). The current NDPP, Vusi Pikoli, is head of the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA). His predecessor, Bulelani Ngcuka resigned his position in the wake of an unsuccessful smear campaign against him involving supporters of convicted fraudster Schabir Shaik.
The NDPP is supported by a Chief Executive Officer, Marion Sparg, Deputies, regional DPPs, and several Special Directors. The National Director was also head of the controversial Directorate of Special Operations (DSO) - commonly known as the Scorpions - which dealt with priority and organised crime until its transfer to the police in 2009. In 2005, the unit instituted proceedings against the country's Deputy President, Jacob Zuma, leading to his dismissal.
In England and Wales, the office of Director of Public Prosecutions was first created in 1880 as part of the Home Office, and had its own department from 1908. The DPP was responsible for the prosecution of only a small number of major cases until 1986 when responsibility for prosecutions was transferred to a new Crown Prosecution Service with the DPP as its head. The Director is appointed by the Attorney General for England and Wales.
The current DPP is Alison Saunders.
Scotland has a different legal system: Scots law. The public prosecutor is the Lord Advocate who heads up the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service. All investigations by the police are nominally under the direction of the Lord Advocate and local Procurators Fiscal, and all prosecutions are carried out in the name of the Lord Advocate.
The current Lord Advocate is Frank Mulholland,QC.
In Northern Ireland a similar situation existed, and the Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland now heads the Public Prosecution Service for Northern Ireland.
The current DPP is Barra McGrory QC.
In the Turks and Caicos Islands, the position of Director of Public Prosecutions was newly created by the 2011 Constitution. Prior to this, the Attorney-General had control over criminal prosecutions. As of October 2012, no DPP had yet been named; the Attorney-General continues to perform the functions of that office in the interim.