The Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions (CDPP) is Australia’s Federal Prosecution service. The Organised Crime and Counter-Terrorism Practice Group (the “Practice Group”) prosecutes terrorism, national security and more significant organised crime offending.
Terrorism prosecutions include both domestic and cross-border terrorism plots, whilst organised crime prosecutions include transnational drug importations, firearms trafficking and money laundering.
The Practice Group will also manage prosecutions arising from the new Commonwealth espionage and foreign interference laws, which were enacted in late June 2018.
In its Annual Report 2017-18 the CDPP outlines how the Practice Group works together with international partners to prosecute international organised crime and terrorism offences.
Collaboration with partner agencies
The Practice Group works with partner agencies to exchange evidence to facilitate prosecutions. There is a focus on electronic evidence, which is easier to manage, enabling more efficient searching and collating of relevant evidence.
An increasing number of referrals received by the Practice Group are arising out of joint-agency investigations, often involving several Commonwealth, state and territory agencies, all of whom may hold relevant material gathered for different purposes.
Prosecutors from the Practice Group are also called upon to provide legal advice to partner agencies to facilitate police investigations, allowing for more effective decision making and better enforcement outcomes.
Collaborating with partner agencies also helps to strengthen the skills and capabilities of all parties involved.
The organised crime and terrorism cases referred to the Practice Group often take place wholly or partly outside of Australia, raising complex cross-jurisdictional considerations. In can be difficult for prosecutors in Australia to secure foreign evidence, due to differing international laws and procedures.
Effective domestic and international cooperation is essential in securing foreign evidence to enable the effective prosecution of international organised crime and terrorism.
International engagements allow prosecutors to develop cross-jurisdictional contacts and exchange expertise with prosecutors, judges and law enforcement officials in other countries.
Practice Group prosecutors have recently been involved in an increasing number of international engagements held around the world. The focus of these engagements relates to counter-terrorism matters, the collection and use of electronic evidence, as well as mutual assistance.
International agencies involved in recent engagements include the FBI, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Committee, as well as South Asian judges, prosecutors and police officers.
Key partner agencies
The key partner agencies of the Practice Group include:
- Australian Federal Police (AFP)
- Australian Security Intelligence Organisation (ASIO)
- Australian Border Force
- Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission (ACIC)
- State and territory police.
The Practice Group provides targeted training to the Joint Counter-Terrorism Teams around Australia to build their capacity and knowledge of terrorism offences, evidence selection and prosecution issues.
What are some recent examples of successful prosecutions?
Drug trafficking prosecution
On the evening of 1 May 2016, police intercepted a commercial fishing boat off the coast of Western Australia. No drugs were on board, but forensic traces of methamphetamine were detected.
The matter was investigated by the Australian Federal Police, Australian Border Force, Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission and Western Australia Police, with support provided by the CDPP.
It was determined that earlier during the day of 1 May 2016, the boat had been used to deliver over 182 kg of methamphetamine to a remote beach in Western Australia, where it was collected by at least four further offenders and transported to the Perth metropolitan area. Police subsequently located the illicit drugs, valued at an estimated $91 million, at two Perth residences on 21 and 23 May 2016.
Prosecution and case result
One offender pleaded guilty before the trial and the remaining 13 accused pleaded not guilty. A trial in the Supreme Court of Western Australia started on 9 October 2017, with 134 witnesses called over a period of 10 weeks.
Seven of the 13 men were convicted for their involvement in the offending. Six of the seven offenders received head sentences of 23 years or more, with the collective sentences imposed totalling over 164 years.
In late 2014, six young men began planning a domestic terrorism attack in the suburbs of Sydney. The conspiracy was primarily planned by three individuals, with another three also involved through preparing handwritten documents discussing plans for the attack.
The offenders spoke and wrote about how an attack could be carried out and discussed possible targets. They all believed they had a religious obligation to engage in violence to advance the interests of Islam.
This matter was investigated by Australian Federal Police and the New South Wales Police Force as part of a larger operation. The CDPP worked closely with both police agencies as the investigation unfolded and provided pre-brief advice.
Six handwritten documents were found at the residence of one of the three primary accused, which evidenced the steps taken by the group in planning the attack and also showed the group had considered engaging in guerrilla warfare from a location in the Blue Mountains. Other evidence established the group had access to a number of firearms.
Prosecution and case result
The three primary accused received sentences of 22 years and 6 months, 18 years and 10 months, and 13 years and 6 months respectively.
The three other accused received sentences ranging from 9 years to 9 years and 6 months.