1st Edition

The Evolving Role of the Public Prosecutor Challenges and Innovations

Edited By Victoria Colvin, Philip Stenning Copyright 2019
    296 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    296 Pages 4 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    The modern public prosecutor is a figure both powerful and enigmatic. Legal scholars and criminologists often identify “three essential components” of criminal justice systems: police, courts and corrections. Yet increasingly, the public prosecutor occupies a distinct role independent from any of these branches. Acting outside of the court, and therefore largely out of the public eye, the prosecutor’s control over whether and what charges proceed to court can limit judicial discretion on sentencing, open pathways to alternative measures and even deny entry into the criminal justice system entirely. In this sense the prosecutor serves as a true “gatekeeper” to the criminal process.

    This book addresses key aspects of the evolving role of domestic and international prosecutors in common law and civil law systems in the twenty-first century, and the challenges posed by this evolution. This collection of chapters from respected scholars takes an international, comparative approach and explores how these different legal systems have borrowed theorisations and articulations of the prosecutorial role from each other in adapting the office to changing conditions and expectations. The volume is structured around four main themes relating to the role of the modern prosecutor: the nature of the prosecutor’s office, the role of the prosecutor in investigations, prosecutorial discretion and how it is exercised, and politicisation and accountability of prosecutors.

    This book is essential for scholars and students in criminal justice, pre-law/legal studies, criminology, justice studies and political science, and is useful as a resource for those interested in legal change around the world.

    Introduction - Philip Stenning, Victoria Colvin, and Heather Douglas

    Part I: The Office of the Modern Public Prosecutor

    Chapter 1: Decoding Hegemony: Exploring the Discourse of a Prosecuting Elite - Robyn Holder

    Chapter 2: New Public Management, Citizens’ Fears and Calls for Justice: The Prosecutor’s New Role in Italy - Cecilia Blengino

    Chapter 3: Deferred Prosecution Agreements: Negotiating Punishment Before Conviction? - Simon Bronitt

    Chapter 4: The Public Prosecution Service and the Structuring of Sentencing: The Nordic Case of Denmark - Rasmus Wandall

    Part II: The Role of Prosecutors in Investigations

    Chapter 5: The Role of the Finnish Prosecutor in Preliminary Investigations – Efficiency or the End of Impartiality? - Julia Jansson

    Chapter 6: Framing Prosecutor–Police Relations in Europe – A Concept Paper - Philip Stenning and Julia Jansson

    Chapter 7: Police Prosecution and Access to Justice for People with Disabilities - Penelope Weller

    Chapter 8: Roles of Lawyers and Investigators in Investigations of International Crimes - Melanie O’Brien

    Part III: The Nature and Extent of Prosecutorial Discretion

    Chapter 9: The Riddle of Prosecutorial Discretion - Victoria Colvin

    Chapter 10: Prosecuting Domestic Violence Cases: Listening to Victims - Heather Douglas

    Chapter 11: Prosecutorial Discretion about Special Measure Use in Australian Cases of Child Sexual Abuse - Jane Goodman-Delahunty, Natalie Martschuk, Martine Powell, and Nina Westera

    Chapter 12: Community Prosecution Code Enforcement in Dallas, Texas: Effects on Serious Crime - John Worrall, Andrew Wheeler, and Justine Medrano

    Part IV: Prosecutors, Politics and Accountability

    Chapter 13: Prosecution and Politics in Germany: The Struggle for Independence - Michael Jasch

    Chapter 14: Prosecutorial Independence and Effectiveness of the Nigerian Criminal Justice System - Adedeji Adekunle

    Chapter 15: The Decision to Prosecute – The Accountability of Australian Prosecutors - Kellie Toole

    Chpater 16: Regulating the Prosecutorial Role in Wrongful Convictions - Kent Roach

    Conclusion - Victoria Colvin and Philip Stenning


    Victoria Colvin is a lecturer at the School of Law, University of Wollongong. She completed her doctorate at the TC Beirne School of Law, University of Queensland, in 2017. From 2001–2009, she was a prosecutor with the Criminal Justice Branch of the Attorney General of British Columbia, Canada. 

    Philip Stenning is an Adjunct Professor in the Griffith Criminology Institute at Griffith University in Brisbane, Australia, a Visiting Professor in the Law School at Leeds University in the UK and an Honorary Professor in the School of Applied Human Sciences at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. His published books include Appearing for the Crown: A Legal and Historical Review of Criminal Prosecutorial Authority in Canada (1986), The Modern Prosecution Process in New Zealand (2008) and, with David Bayley, Governing the Police: Experience in Six Democracies (2016).

    This innovative collection of essays sets out to broaden study of the criminal process by bringing public prosecutors into the spotlight. Prosecutors wield considerable power over the course of criminal cases – whether the prosecution is dropped or results in diversion, what charges are brought, whether a plea bargain is struck, etc – and yet they do this away from the public gaze. This comparative study looks at civil law and common law systems, raising a wide range of questions about the extent of power, discretion and accountability of public prosecutors.

    Andrew Ashworth,

    Vinerian Professor of English Law Emeritus, University of Oxford.