This module is a resource for lecturers

The role of prosecutors

Apart from their responsibility to prepare criminal cases, prosecutors play an important role in criminal investigation, despite the differences in basic legal principles across countries. In some countries, prosecutors have an overall responsibility over investigation, while in others they have a more limited role in carrying out investigation.

One of the most important and common roles of prosecutors is oversight of police investigations to ensure due process of law. In order to meet the rule of law standards and strengthen public confidence in the authority of the police to conduct investigations in a manner that balances rights of individuals, the investigative work of law enforcement must be monitored. One function of prosecutors is to supervise and give recommendations to police investigators. The extent of such authority varies from country to country from non-binding advice to complete prosecutorial control over police investigations. Consideration should be given to the proper degree to which the division between the responsibilities for investigation can be separated from the responsibility for an independent prosecution. Both police and prosecutors should make efforts to understand and respect each other's responsibility in criminal procedure and justice delivery.

Role of Prosecutors in Criminal Investigation

In some jurisdictions such as Germany and the Republic of Korea, prosecutors are by law responsible for leading investigations by themselves and the police are only an investigatory body of the public prosecution office. In reality, it is the police who are actually leading investigations in most cases. In Japan, prosecutors are also empowered to carry out investigations, but at the same time, the Code of Criminal Procedure states that the primary responsibility of investigation lies with the police.

In other countries with common law traditions such as Kenya, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Tanzania and the United Kingdom, prosecutors play no role in investigation as such, but do exercise their advisory or supervisory authority to guide the police investigation in such ways as advising or instructing the police to carry out their investigation to certain direction (UNAFEI, 120th International Senior Seminar)

Several United Nations treaties, such as the Organized Crime Convention and the Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances of 1988, require States parties to ensure that any discretionary legal powers relating to the prosecution of organized crime offences are exercised, in order to maximize the effectiveness of investigations and prosecutions against serious organized crimes such as drug trafficking (article 3 (5) of the 1988 Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances), participation in an organized criminal group, money-laundering, corruption and obstruction of justice (article 11 of the Organized Crime Convention). A provision of the same nature is included also in article 30 of the United Nations Convention against Corruption (for further information regarding the implementation of this provision, please see the Report on the State of Implementation of the Convention against Corruption, pp. 96-99) Such provisions are generally meant to ensure that, in cases related to those offences, investigation and prosecution are the norm, while the dismissal of proceedings in application of discretionary powers should remain an exception.

In most cases, the ability of prosecutors to receive, validate, analyse and manage information in a systematic fashion can significantly impact the outcome of an investigation. International cooperation among criminal justice actors from different countries is usually key and cannot be underestimated in cases of transnational organized crime.

goCASE (government office case management system)

The UNODC government office case management system ( goCASE) supports government agencies to conduct and manage investigations, prosecutions and regulatory actions of any kind. goCASE facilitates the collection and development of intelligence to strengthen intelligence-led investigations and prosecutions, to support all criminal justice actors. It supports analysts in developing inferences and hypotheses, front-line officers and investigators in identifying and reacting to investigative leads, and prosecutors in handling court cases.