Decision to Prosecute

The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) is responsible for making the crucial decision of whether to prosecute or not. Before making this decision, the DPP must carefully examine the evidence and act independently. This means that no person, including the Government can influence the DPP’s decision.

How does the DPP reach a decision to prosecute?

Once investigations are concluded and the docket is forwarded to the NPA, the DPP must carefully examine the evidence on the docket and decide whether it is sufficient to take the matter to Court. This involves a two tier approach:

  • The first stage is the evidential stage. At this point, the DPP will review all the evidence and assess whether the court is more likely than not to find the accused guilty.
  • The second stage is the public interest test. At this point, the DPP will consider whether it is in the public interest to prosecute. The DPP will consider factors such as the gravity of the offence, the harm done to the victim, the impact on the community, the accused’s age and maturity at the time of the offence. A prosecution will proceed unless the DPP determines that the public interest factors against prosecution outweigh those in favor of prosecution.

Why might the DPP decide not to prosecute a case?

If there is insufficient evidence in a case, the DPP may decide not to prosecute. This is because an accused is likely to be acquitted if the evidence is insufficient . It is not enough for the court to accept the victim’s story, it must be persuaded beyond all reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty.

In some cases, despite there being sufficient evidence, the DPP may decide not to prosecute for other reasons. For example, if the offender is 18 years and below, the case may be dealt through the Diversion Programme; or if it is not in the public interest to prosecute.

How long does it take the DPP to arrive at a decision?

Each case is unique and is carefully considered. If the case is not complicated, the DPP usually makes a decision within a few days of receipt of the docket. Other cases may take longer to resolve because they are more complicated, such as were there is voluminous evidence to review, multiple accused persons or the DPP requires additional information.

Does the DPP prosecute cases on behalf of victims?

The DPP prosecutes cases on behalf of the Zambian people, not on behalf of any individual. As a result, when deciding whether or not to prosecute, the victim’s views and interests cannot be the sole consideration. However, the DPP will always consider the consequences of the decision to prosecute on the victim. The DPP will also consider the victim’s or victim’s family’s point of view.

Can a decision made by the DPP be reviewed?

Yes, a decision to prosecute can be reviewed. Where the circumstances surrounding a case change or if new evidence comes to light, the DPP may have to review the decision to prosecute. When the decision is to stop the prosecution after review , the DPP will inform the victim or victim’s family were practicable.