Legal Business Improvement
The Legal Business Improvement (LBI) branch focuses on the many operational aspects of enabling, supporting and modernising the CDPP’s legal practice. The branch also supports the Commonwealth Solicitor for Public Prosecutions and the Director by providing specialist advice and support in the areas of policy development, law reform, engagement of external counsel, partner agency engagement, legal learning and professional development and post‑trial analysis.
Key activities include:
- developing and maintaining key resources, internal policies and guidelines relating to the legal practice
- maintaining and refreshing a list of experienced barristers appointed to the CDPP’s External Counsel Panel, together with a number of junior and senior counsel briefed who are not part of the CDPP panel
- maintaining resources integral to the work of partner agencies including various warrant manuals
- managing content and proactively communicating time‑critical information to partner agencies through our secure Partner Agency Portal
- managing and developing induction resources and the Continuing Legal Education program for all prosecutors
- coordinating external advocacy training
- providing partner agencies and CDPP prosecutors with analysis of post‑trial reports to identify any systemic issues arising in investigations and prosecutions
- managing and analysis of complaints and feedback, with a view to identifying any systemic issues that need addressing, and
- liaising and engaging with the Attorney‑General’s Department and the Department of Home Affairs regarding law reform issues.
Legal Learning and Professional Development (LLPD)
LBI branch incorporates the Legal Learning and Professional Development team. This team delivers a coordinated and structured education program designed to build the knowledge and skills of our Federal Prosecutors.
The programs and activities align with our strategic objectives and our goals of:
- providing the skills to build legal capability for all lawyers and levels
- delivering sustainable continuous improvement both as prosecutors and public servants
- instilling confidence so lawyers perform their work knowing they are supported, and
- reinforcing national consistency of approach in our prosecution work.
We aim to embed a learning culture across the legal practice, encouraging our lawyers to adopt this approach throughout their career with the CDPP. We do this by providing information and training at induction, comprehensive e‑resources, on the job learning and targeted activities and training programs.
Developing a learning culture helps to build and maintain an agile, diverse, healthy and highly‑skilled legal workforce, and ensures the CDPP is able to attract, manage, and retain high‑performing legal staff. This will enable us to continue to provide a high‑ quality prosecution service now and into the future.
Through our national programs and activities, we strive for a healthy and resilient legal workforce that is collaborative, innovative and diverse. We support our employees in their career pathways by building their capabilities and confidence to enable them to reach their full potential.
In 2019–20, LBI facilitated the following activities:
- a digital workshop produced by the Australian Advocacy Institute (AAI) entitled “Remote Advocacy Skills ‑ Communication in the Virtual Courtroom” was made available to legal staff, following the cancellation of AAI’s usual “in person” advocacy program for CDPP prosecutors due to the pandemic. LBI also made available a paper prepared by the CDPP’s Federal Advocate entitled “Principles for Remote Advocacy” which provides tips for effective online advocacy. Both these products have been invaluable given the impact of the pandemic on court hearings around Australia and the courts’ requirements to appear virtually
- a Federal Prosecutor Induction Workshop was held in November 2019. These workshops are integral for newly‑ recruited Federal Prosecutors, and are run in conjunction with our induction program for new starters. Each workshop includes a pre‑event dinner hosted by the Director, practice group leaders and other senior lawyers within the CDPP. This is followed by a full day workshop of various presentations and practical sessions. These events provide an opportunity for our newest Federal Prosecutors to meet, engage with and learn from the Director, Executive Leaders and other CDPP lawyers. Due to the pandemic the next scheduled workshop will be held in a virtual learning environment, and
- in collaboration with the CDPP’s national Continuing Legal Education (CLE) Committee LBI helped deliver a CLE program for lawyers on a diverse range of topics and in line with the legal training needs identified by staff through our annual survey. Given the onset of the pandemic, during 2020 these CLEs were delivered virtually to lawyers and have been extremely well attended with between 100 and 150 participants from around the country participating. Various formats have been employed to maximise interactivity and staff engagement, including panel format presentations and pre reading, as well as real time questions, and post event polling of participants for future evaluation.
In addition, LBI undertook significant planning activity aimed at improving all components of its LLPD program going forward. A key plank in the planning process was the launch of the 2020‑23 LLPD Strategy.
Key Policies and Guidelines
LBI helped deliver a raft of new and revised policies and guidelines to the legal practice during the course of the year. Of particular significance were resources relating to prosecution disclosure including a brand new resource, Guidelines on Disclosure for Prosecutors and an updated resource, Guidelines on Disclosure for Investigators. LBI also released a Practice Management Guide for prosecutors.
LBI continued to support the work of auditors reviewing some of CDPP’s internal processes. These included the ANAO audit of CDPP’s Case Management during 2019, an internal audit review by KPMG of CDPP’s personal information holdings in November 2019 and a Management Initiated Review of CDPP’s Risk Management Engagement Strategy, also conducted by KPMG in November/December 2019.
One of the most significant stakeholders we partner with is the private bar, as the CDPP engages counsel to appear and advise on some of our more complex cases. LBI manages and provides the vetting process for applications for appointment of suitable counsel to the CDPP external junior counsel panel, and advises the legal practice in relation to the consistent setting of counsel fees and terms and conditions of engagement.
Our panel approach has helped us to improve gender equity and diversity in our briefing practices, while providing a simple application process for counsel seeking to work with the CDPP.1
Panel counsel, those directly briefed who are not on the panel, and senior counsel together make up a stable of almost 700 counsel available to be briefed by the CDPP. In collaboration with the National Business Improvement branch, in October 2019, LBI facilitated the entry of counsel expertise search terms into the CDPP’s Case Management system for our external counsel cohort, using data gathered from past briefings, bar profiles and information supplied by counsel. Lawyers seeking to select counsel to appear or advise in their matters can now do so with instantaneous access to a rich data set of experience and expertise.
The Commonwealth Solicitor for Public Prosecutions (CSPP) has also established a regular e‑newsletter for our external counsel, which allows us to keep counsel informed of developments, initiatives and events relevant to their work. This mechanism has been used, for example, to communicate with counsel during the pandemic. This enabled the CDPP to confirm its approach and priorities, including our intention to have a strong focus on early resolution to ensure any potential backlog of cases (particularly jury trials) was minimised.
Complaints and feedback
In November 2018, LBI established a dedicated Feedback and Complaints page on the CDPP external website. The page sets out the process for making a complaint or providing feedback to either a dedicated email address, or via a web form. The page also includes a link to the CDPP complaints policy and summarises what an accused person, witness, victim of crime or member of the public can expect when they lodge a complaint.
The formalisation of the CDPP’s complaints and feedback handling processes is a direct response to recommendations made by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
The following is a summary of anonymised statistical information regarding complaints and feedback received in the 2019–20 financial year (the reporting period):
- there were 12 submissions of complaints/feedback received by the CDPP during the reporting periodhalf (six) were submitted via the web form from the CDPP website. Another four were received via email, withone submitted by letter and one by telephone
- seven were received from defendants that were or are being prosecutedby CDPP. Three were received from members of the public, one was a victim of crime and one an applicant for a position at CDPP
- the subjects of the complaints/feedback varied from dissatisfaction with process (four), unfair decision making (three), behaviour of CDPP staff (three),and feedback on the CDPP website content (two), and
- all complaints were acknowledged in writing within two business days and were investigated. In all but one case (in which no action was required), a written response was provided. The length of time taken to investigate and provide a written response varied from between one and 49 days, with an average time taken of 14.6 days.
The ELG reviews this data annually with a view to identifying and actioning any systemic issues.
- 2 In 2016, the CDPP adopted the National Model Gender Equitable Briefing Policy set out by the Law Council of Australia. The LBI branch provides both internal and external reporting on gender diversity.↩