Topic: The charging decision: accountability, transparency, and control of the decision to prosecute

Presenter: Ms Victoria Colvin - PhD Candidate, TC Beirne School of Law

The decision whether to prosecute has profound implications. Public prosecutors, like any public authority, are subject to expectations that mechanisms exist to provide accountability for making the charging decision. But unique challenges exist in structuring these accountability mechanisms. 

Two issues exist. The first is that the allegation has not been tested in court under the stringent protections of the criminal process. When a decision is made not to prosecute, public scrutiny of the merits of the decision may result in stigma being cast on the potential accused. At the same time, the process surrounding the charging decision is designed to protect the decision from improper influences, such as partisan political considerations. Accountability mechanisms could be used to circumvent these protections. 

In order to address these issues, this project examines the process surrounding the decision to prosecute in Australia, Canada, and England. It examines the roles and relationships of the criminal justice system actors who are involved in the decision to prosecute: the Attorney-General, the Director of Public Prosecutions, trial prosecutors, and the police. But issues of accountability also bring in a range of non-traditional actors such as courts, inquiries, the political executive, and victims whose roles in the process are not well studied. The project will examine how mechanisms of accountability can be structured to maintain the integrity of the charging process. 

All welcome, please register by emailing Beth Williams.

Contact: Beth Williams, ph: (334) 69350, email:

About Research Seminar Series

The UQ Law Research Seminar Series provides an opportunity to explore and critically discuss legal and interdisciplinary issues in an academic environment. The seminars are an integral part of the School’s research culture.

For further enquiries about this Seminar Series or if you are interested in presenting a seminar, please contact the Research Office (

You may also be interested in related seminar series:

To receive notice of upcoming seminars and other law school news, please subscribe to the School’s E-Newsletter.


Sir Samuel Griffith Room, 1-W341, Forgan Smith Building