Prosecutors’ Duty to Key Stakeholders

Introduction

Prosecutors do not operate in a vacuum. They relate to different groups of stakeholders on a day to day basis. Stakeholders are those individuals or institutions who can place a claim to the Prosecutor’s time, attention, resources or output. A Prosecutor’s stakeholders include judiciary personnel, victims, investigators, witnesses, experts and the media, among others. Proper management of their relationships with these stakeholders is crucial to the success of their work.

1.  Investigators

Investigators may come from the Police, the Wildlife Agency or other specialized agencies in the country. They are responsible for investigating the wildlife crime, making arrests, gathering evidence and collecting and securing exhibits. Before trial, the Prosecutor is responsible for guiding the investigator, especially on legal issues that may arise during the investigation. As the investigator builds up his case, the prosecutor should be available to give advice.  This includes advise on  important evidence that the investigator must and points to prove for any given charge. The Prosecutor is also responsible for supporting the Investigator in getting special orders that he may require during the investigations. These include search warrants, arrest warrants, seizure orders and confiscation orders among others. In maintaining this role, the Prosecutor should:

  • Have regular pre-trial briefings with the investigator.
  • Inform the investigator in good time on any additional evidence or information that may be needed.
  • Advise the Investigator on legal and procedural issues that apply to the case.
  • Anticipate and make any special applications to court that will help with the investigation.
  • Have a post-trial debrief with the investigator at the close of the case.
2. Witnesses

A witness is any person who perceived the occurrence of the crime.  A witness will be required to testify in court as to what he perceived. Oftentimes, the prosecutor has to deal with members of the public who come to testify as witnesses. Many have never been to a courtroom before and rely entirely on the prosecutor to guide them. To maintain their relationship with witnesses, prosecutors should:

  • Hold pre-trial conferences with witnesses.
  • Give witnesses regular updates on the status of their cases.
  • Advise witnesses on court procedures and processes.
  • Inform witnesses of scheduling changes to their cases.
  • Explain to witnesses court orders that they may not understand.
  • Explain to witnesses what is expected of them and what to anticipate from the Prosecutor, the
  • Court, the Defence Lawyer and the Defendant when giving their testimony.
  • Desist from coaching witnesses.
  • Hold post-testimony debriefs with the witnesses.
  • Hold post-trial debriefs with the witnesses.
3. Experts

ProsecutorsAn expert is a person who has comprehensive and authoritative skill or knowledge in a particular field. An expert witness is a witness who has knowledge beyond that of the ordinary lay person enabling him/her to give testimony regarding an issue that requires expertise to understand. Expert witnesses are therefore called upon to testify because of their training, special knowledge or skills and not because they perceived the crime. They give an opinion on particular technical subjects that will help resolve the case. Expert witnesses in wildlife cases could include scientists, veterinary surgeons, finger print experts, ballistics experts and forensic experts. To maintain their relationship with experts, Prosecutors should:

  • Hold pre-testimony meeting with the expert.
  • Respect the independence of the expert.
  • Counter check the qualifications of the expert to avoid his/her being embarrassed in court.
  • Explain to the expert what will be expected of him/her at the trial.
  • Hold a post-testimony debrief with the expert.
4. Media

The media are often interested in criminal trials, especially wildlife cases because the resources involved belong to the community as a whole. The media is the eye and ear of the community since the entire community cannot go to court. The community relies on the media for information about the case. The media is therefore an important stakeholder for Prosecutors. To maintain their relationship with the media, Prosecutors should:

  • Only give accurate facts about the case.
  • Only disclose those facts which are not confidential.
  • Explain any technical legal terms or court orders that the media may not understand.
  • Desist from giving their opinions on the case.
  • Not disclose any facts which he has not yet presented before court.
  • Desist from giving information that will embarrass the defendant or any witness.

Author: DidiWamukoya

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