A prosecutor is a "minister of justice". The prosecutor's principal role is to assist the court to arrive at the truth and to do justice between the community and the accused according to law and the dictates of fairness.
A prosecutor is not entitled to act as if representing private interests in litigation. A prosecutor represents the community and not any individual or sectional interest. A prosecutor acts independently, yet in the general public interest. The “public interest” is to be understood in that context as an historical continuum: acknowledging debts to previous generations and obligations to future generations.
In carrying out that function
"it behoves him - Neither to indict, nor on trial to speak for conviction except upon credible evidence of guilt; nor to do even a little wrong for the sake of expediency, or to pique any person or please any power; not to be either gullible or suspicious, intolerant or over-pliant: in the firm and abiding mind to do right to all manner of people, to seek justice with care, understanding and good countenance."
(per R R Kidston QC, former Senior Crown Prosecutor of New South Wales, in "The Office of Crown Prosecutor (More Particularly in New South Wales)" (1958) 32 ALJ 148.)
It is a specialised and demanding role, the features of which need to be clearly recognised and understood. It is a role that is not easily assimilated by all legal practitioners schooled in an adversarial environment. It is essential that it be carried out with the confidence of the community in whose name it is performed.
"It cannot be over-emphasised that the purpose of a criminal prosecution is not to obtain a conviction; it is to lay before a jury what the Crown considers to be credible evidence relevant to what is alleged to be a crime. Counsel have a duty to see that all available legal proof of the facts is presented: it should be done firmly and pressed to its legitimate strength, but it must also be done fairly. The role of the prosecutor excludes any notion of winning or losing; his function is a matter of public duty than which in civil life there can be none charged with greater personal responsibility. It is to be efficiently performed with an ingrained sense of the dignity, the seriousness and the justness of judicial proceedings."
(per Rand J in the Supreme Court of Canada in Boucher v The Queen (1954) 110 CCC 263 at p 270.)
In this State that role must be discharged in the environment of an adversarial approach to litigation. The observance of those canons of conduct is not incompatible with the adoption of an advocate's role. The advocacy must be conducted, however, temperately and with restraint.
The prosecutor represents the community generally at the trial of an accused person.
"Prosecuting counsel in a criminal trial represents the State. The accused, the court and the community are entitled to expect that, in performing his function of presenting the case against an accused, he will act with fairness and detachment and always with the objectives of establishing the whole truth in accordance with the procedures and standards which the law requires to be observed and of helping to ensure that the accused's trial is a fair one."
(per Deane J in Whitehorn v The Queen (1983) 152 CLR 657 at pp 663-664.)
Nevertheless, there will be occasions when the prosecutor will be entitled firmly and vigorously to urge the prosecution's view about a particular issue and to test, and if necessary to attack, that advanced on behalf of an accused person or evidence adduced by the defence. Adversarial tactics may need to be employed in one trial that may be out of place in another. A criminal trial is an accusatorial, adversarial procedure and the prosecutor will seek by all proper means provided by that process to secure the conviction of the perpetrator of the crime charged.