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Convictions at 10-year low

DPP Tim Ellis leaves court during his trial.A LONG running murder trial and the absence of top prosecutor Tim Ellis has resulted in the lowest criminal conviction rates in more than 10 years.
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The Director of Public Prosecutions’ annual report shows 385 cases were finalised in the 2013-14 year, compared with 534 the year before.

Mr Ellis has been suspended on full pay – a salary of more than $500,000 – since November last year over a fatal car crash for which he was later convicted.

Acting Director of Public Prosecutions T said the low rate reflected the lower number of defendants committed and the “unique circumstances” that impacted the capacity of the office to deal with matters in the past year.

The double murder trial of Lake Leake man Stephen Roy Standage took five months, which Mr Coates said “significantly reduced the Supreme Court’s capacity to deal with other criminal matters”.

He also said a lack of funding and staffing in the Legal Aid Commission contributed.

Mr Coates said despite the circumstances the actual number of trials only reduced from 84 to 82.

He said the statistics didn’t paint the whole picture and next year a new case management system would be used to measure raw numbers and complexity of cases.

The DPP received a 46 per cent increase in sexual assault cases in the past year.

Nationally, sexual assault cases increased by 8 per cent.

Mr Coates said it was unclear whether the high rate was due to a higher offending rate, increased reporting rates or Tasmania Police more regularly seeking advice on whether a person should be charged.

“I suspect a combination of the latter two is most likely,” Mr Coates said.

“It is more likely to reflect a greater willingness by victims to come forward to report the crimes against them.”

Mr Coates said the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse may have given victims the confidence to report such crimes.

Mr Ellis returns to court next week to appeal against his guilty charge of causing the death of Launceston woman Natalia Pearn by negligent driving.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.

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