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The ODPP is NSW's independent prosecution authority and was established by the Director of Public Prosecutions Act 1986. The ODPP prosecutes all serious offences committed against the criminal law of the State. The ODPP does not investigate crimes but conducts the prosecutions on behalf of the community. This means that the ODPP does not represent victims or the police in the same way that other lawyers usually represent clients.

The Director is a statutory appointment which can only be made by the NSW Attorney General. The tenure for each Director is ten years.

The Director is independent and decisions made on matters are final. The Office and the Directorship was established in 1987 to ensure criminal proceedings are conducted fairly and without undue influence from any private, community or political interest.

The Police investigate crime and commence criminal proceedings. When police commence proceedings for a serious criminal matter they subsequently refer the matter to this Office for prosecution. The ODPP then takes over the prosecution of the matter from the Police. The Police still prosecute summary matters themselves in the local court, except where the charge relates to the sexual assault upon a child or involves the prosecution of a police officer.

The Prosecution Guidelines are published electronically by the ODPP, and are publicly available. The Prosecution Guidelines are continually reviewed, revised and republished as required. The latest publication was issued in October 2007, and are currently under review. It is anticipated that the reviewed Prosecution Guidelines will be published in 2014.

A matter will not be continued if the Director decides that there is insufficient evidence to make out the charges or that there is no reasonable prospect of conviction on the evidence that does make out the charges. See Prosecution Guideline 4 and Prosecution Guideline 19 for detailed explanation.

The views of victims are sought, considered and taken into account when decisions are made about prosecutions. See Prosecution Guideline 19.

If sought, reasons are generally given for decisions made in the course of a prosecution. Reasons for not proceeding are given to a person with a legitimate interest in the matter (e.g. a victim). The reasons are rarely made public because they quite often involve evidence or comparable information that is not on the public record. See Prosecution Guideline 12 for more information.