The public interest embraces a multiplicity of persons from diverse sectors, strata of society, station in life and different interests. The public interest includes victims of crime, accused persons, witnesses, law enforcement personnel, Human Rights Organisations and everyone else who forms members of the public.
Prosecutors in the 21st century have to be aware that their role is a delicate balancing act where they have to be sensitive to the public interest while retaining their independence in decision making. At the same time, one’s decision cannot be driven by sympathy, prejudices, public sentiment or a talk show host’s opinion or a poll but by prosecutorial ethics, fairness and courage. This demands that the decision to prosecute has to be taken in the context of all the available evidence and the relevant law. Although one is cognizant of public sensitivities in relation to high interest matters, and we try as best as possible to fast track urgent matters that come to our attention, there is no room for the use of sympathy for one party or the other, in our decision making process or the exercise of our discretion.
The role and obligation to act in the public interest was recognized by Justice Avory in R v. Banks. He pointed out that:
“It is true prosecuting counsel ought not to press for a conviction…They should “regard themselves” rather as “ministers of justice” assisting in its administration than as advocates. ”
The decision whether or not to prosecute is the most important step in the prosecution process. In every case great care must be taken in the interests of the victim, the suspected offender and the community at large to ensure that the right decision is made. A wrong decision to prosecute or, conversely, a wrong decision not to prosecute, both tend to undermine the confidence of the community in the criminal justice system.
Having satisfied himself or herself that the evidence is sufficient to justify the institution or continuation of a prosecution, the prosecutor must then consider whether, in the light of the provable facts and the whole of the surrounding circumstances, the public interest requires a prosecution to be pursued. It is not the rule that all offences brought to the attention of the authorities must be prosecuted.
The factors which can properly be taken into account in deciding whether the public interest requires a prosecution will vary from case to case. While many public interest factors militate against a decision to proceed with a prosecution, there are public interest factors which operate in favour of proceeding with a prosecution (for example, the seriousness of the offence, the need for deterrence). In this regard, generally speaking the more serious the offence the less likely it will be that the public interest will not require that a prosecution be pursued. It has occasionally occurred that there is the rare case where though the chances of a successful prosecution may appear to be very slim at the outset and the prosecution is faced with insurmountable hurdles, nevertheless the public interest dictates that the process not be prematurely terminated but that the prosecution puts up what it has so that the issues and the challenges are fully ventilated in the public domain.
In Paragraph 2.10 of the Prosecution Policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions of Australia the factors which may arise for consideration in determining whether the public interest requires a prosecution were considered. These include:
The applicability of and weight to be given to these and other factors will depend on the particular circumstances of each case.
  2 KB 621.
 Ibid at 623
 Paragraph 2.2 Prosecution Policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth), Australia
 Ibid para 2.8
 Paragraph 2.9 Prosecution Policy of the Director of Public Prosecutions (Cth), Australia