24. Media

24.1   The effective operation of the criminal justice system depends on its general acceptance by the community as a whole. That acceptance can only be maintained if the community is educated about the criminal justice process and receives fair and accurate information about criminal cases. The community depends on the media to provide most of the information it receives. The prosecution is well placed to assist the media by providing information about relevant matters when appropriate. It should be accurate and complete information provided in a timely manner.

24.2   In communications with representatives of the media, a prosecutor may confirm facts that are already in the public domain upon request, including matters presented in open court (subject to any court order), the settled future course of events (e.g. trial date, pre-trial argument, when a particular witness may testify) and general open information about a case. However, a prosecutor is not obliged to provide information to the media.

24.3   Discretion must be used in relation to any sensitive material and steps should be taken to protect the personal privacy of individuals from unjustified interference.

24.4   The governing principles for the provision of information to the media are:

  1. avoiding prejudice to fair trial interests including the presumption of innocence;
  2. supporting the administration of justice and the integrity of the criminal justice system;
  3. respecting the principle of open justice;
  4. recognising the public interest in receiving accurate and timely information about the criminal justice system and criminal prosecutions;
  5. treating victims of crime and witnesses with courtesy and compassion, and respecting their dignity and privacy.

24.5   In general, a prosecutor should not discuss with the media matters such as the following:

  1. expressions of a prosecutor’s personal opinion (for example, but not limited to, views about: the likely outcome of proceedings, the correctness or otherwise of a judicial decision, the credit of a witness, the admissibility of evidence, the correctness of a verdict, the adequacy of a sentence, the prospects of any appeal, the judge or members of the jury);
  2. policy issues or personalities;
  3. the intended approach of the prosecution in relation to a case;
  4. any part of the proceedings not conducted at an open hearing;
  5. personal particulars of a victim, a witness or a juvenile offender;
  6. information that may lead to the identification of a protected person including an informer;
  7. any privileged information (including internal Departmental communications and discussions with other agencies);
  8. the existence of any plea negotiations or the possibility of a plea of guilty or other disposition;
  9. evidence excluded at trial or not adduced in court proceedings.

24.6   Prosecutors may provide copies of public documents to the media to assist accurate reporting – documents such as an indictment or charge sheet, a statement of facts already admitted in open court. The media should not be provided with or given access to any video-recorded material (including tapes or discs of recorded interviews, re-enactments, demonstrations or identifications).

24.7   The media should not be provided with any witness statements, medical, psychiatric, psychological, or pre-sentence report on any offender, victim or witness.

24.8   Media questions should be referred to appropriate personnel within the Department of Justice:

  1. in relation to controversial cases;
  2. in relation to cases of particular sensitivity;
  3. in relation to appeals;
  4. in relation to reviews of sentences;
  5. in relation to decisions to discontinue prosecutions;
  6. in respect of prosecution policy.

24.9   The Director of Public Prosecutions should be consulted in relation to difficult enquiries.