Prosecutorial decisions in adult sexual assault cases: an Australian study


The objective of this study was to describe and analyse factors influencing prosecutorial decisions to proceed with, discontinue, or enter into charge negotiations in cases of adult sexual assault referred to state and territory Offices of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The analysis was based on a sample of 141 case files which were referred to the DPP in five jurisdictions between 1999 and 2001, supplemented by a qualitative analysis of interviews with 24 Crown Prosecutors who were experienced in prosecuting sexual assault cases. The study presents findings on the disposition of the cases studied and factors underlying prosecutorial decisions. Statistically significant differences are found between cases that were withdrawn from prosecution and those that proceeded to trial or sentencing. Most of these variables are related to the prospects of securing a conviction.

A report prepared for the Australian Government's Office of the Status of Women by the Australian Institute of Criminology.