Giving Victims the Right to Review Prosecutor Decisions in Australia

Dr Mary Iliadis1, Associate Professor Asher Flynn2

1Deakin University, Burwood, Australia ,

2Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Prosecutors have high levels of discretion in their roles, including the power to decide whether or not, and how to, proceed with a case. In Australia, prosecutor decisions are generally not subject to external scrutiny or review, and there is no official body that oversees their decisions, especially if no case proceeds. This level of immunity limits our understanding of the nature of decision-making processes and has proven to impact a victim’s capacity to seek and obtain justice. The need for a victim’ right to review (VRR) scheme has recently gained traction in Australia following perceived inadequate prosecutorial decisions and oversights. In its final report, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse (2017) recommended that each Australian prosecution office ‘establish a robust and effective formalised complaints mechanism to allow victims to seek internal merits review of key decisions’. A VRR has the potential to address concerns over the finality of the decision not to prosecute, however, our published research on the VRR in England and Wales shows that having the review conducted ‘in-house’ poses some risks to the level of transparency and accountability surrounding decision-making processes. If the government commits to introducing a VRR, there may be stronger merit in an external system that is independent of the prosecutor’s office. An external review has greater potential to ‘unpick’ gaps in decision-making processes and may provide a unique level of transparency and accountability to victims, thereby increasing their likelihood of obtaining justice.


Dr Mary Iliadis is a Lecturer in Criminology in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Deakin University and Newsletter Editor for the Australian and New Zealand Society of Criminology. Mary’s research adopts a socio-legal framework to examine, critique and impact legal policy to inform the development of appropriate responses to victims of sexual violence in criminal trials. Informed by international and comparative contexts, Mary explores the rights and protections afforded to victims of sexual violence across the United Kingdom, Ireland and Australia, and explores how access to justice is negotiated for victims. Mary’s recent work focuses on mechanisms of victim participation in criminal trials and explores prospects for private counsel for victims. More broadly, Mary researches prosecutorial discretion and gender and family violence as a global crime problem. Mary also conducts research in the areas of newsmaking and digital criminology, and is co-authoring a book titled Criminology and the Media: International Comparative Perspectives and Experiences, with Dr Mark Wood (University of Melbourne) and Dr Imogen Richards (Deakin University).

Mary has published in leading criminology and law journals, and her first book, Adversarial Justice and Victims’ Rights: Reconceptualising the Role of Sexual Assault Victims, will feature in Routledge’s Victims, Culture and Society series. Mary has advised on law reform internationally and her research findings have gained significant traction in government circles, including in Sir John Gillen’s Review on The Law and Procedures in Serious Sexual Offences in Northern Ireland. In February 2019, Mary was announced as a Semi-Finalist for The Bridge Create Change Award which forms part of the Seven News Young Achiever Awards in Victoria, and in June 2019, Mary received a St Mary’s College Visiting Women’s Fellowship at Durham University.


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