The commentary in the By Lawyers WA Magistrates Court – Criminal Guide has been amended to ensure that practitioners acting for clients who are charged with sexual and violent offences are aware of the Director of Public Prosecutions’ new Policy and Guidelines for Victims of Crime 2018. These provide for Victim Reviews – a formal process for a victim of crime to complain and seek a review about any decision by the DPP which ‘significantly alters the prosecution case in relation to which they are the victim’.
That would, for example, include an agreement by the prosecution to withdraw a charge and/or proceed with a lesser charge.
There is a corresponding requirement under the policy for State Prosecutors to seek an adjournment of the matter for 7 days, where necessary and practicable, for such a review to be conducted – if a review is requested. Victims can waive their right to a review. In some instances, where a trial is pending for example, an adjournment for 7 days will not be possible and prosecutors are expected to use their discretion when seeking adjournments.
Whether any adjournment is granted will always be matter for the Court, in the context of the particular matter, but it is likely that such adjournments will usually be granted by the Court if reasonably possible.
It is, of course, preferable that discussions about plea resolutions between defence lawyers and prosecutors occur with sufficient time for the adjournment not to be necessary, but there will always be some instances where an agreement is reached at, or within 7 days of, an interlocutory appearance – such as the Disclosure Committal – resulting in the need for an adjournment.
Where victim reviews are required, clients will need to be warned that any plea ‘deal’ is not guaranteed until the review is conducted and the matter returns to court after the adjournment.