Victims of crime have the right to know certain information about the case. These rights are set out in the Director of Public Prosecutions Guidelines for prosecutors and in the Northern Territory Charter for Victims of Crime.
Right to Information:
As a victim of a crime you have the right to be informed in a timely manner of the following:
- The charges laid against any offender for the crime, and any changes to these charges;
- The reasons for not laying or proceeding with charges;
- Where and when the matter is to come before the Court;
- The trial process and the rights and responsibilities of witnesses;
- Whether or not bail has been granted and any bail conditions relating to protecting witnesses from the offender;
- The reasons for why the prosecutor might accept a plea of guilty to a lesser charge; and
- The outcome of criminal proceedings and the sentence, if one is imposed.
Right to be Consulted:
Where a matter relates to a sexual offence or results in bodily harm, the prosecutor should consult the victim, where possible, before deciding to amend a charge, discontinue a charge or accept a plea to a lesser charge. This is unless the victim has advised they do not wish to be consulted or can not be located where a reasonable attempt has been made to contact them.
In all cases involving indictable offences (i.e. those likely to go to the Supreme Court), the prosecutor should attempt to seek and take into account the views of victims when making decisions about the case, including accepting of a plea to a lesser charge or when settling a matter on negotiated facts. That is where the offender will agree to plead guilty if some of the facts of the matter are amended. The proposed facts will be discussed with the victim to gain their view on what is being put forward. The decision on whether to accept the plea on the lesser charge or the negotiated facts remains with the prosecutor but the victim has the right be consulted about this and have the reason for the final decision explained to them.
Discontinuation of Case:
A victim may ask to have the charges dropped and the prosecutor is required to give this careful consideration where there are good reasons for asking for this. However the prosecutor is required to also consider the public interest in the matter proceeding, which is that if the offence is of a serious nature, action should be taken to ensure that not only that offender but others who might commit the same kind of offence know that such behaviour will not be accepted by the community. This is particularly so in Domestic Violence matters where the victim may be subject to pressure to drop the charges. In such situations, the prosecutor will not drop the charges. They should provide the victim with their reasons for this and support will be made available to the victim throughout the process.