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Much has been made of National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) head Shaun Abrahams exercising his prosecutorial discretion inappropriately. But what if the abuse of discretion is mirrored lower down the ranks? The evidence suggests an increasing tendency to decline to prosecute in favour of "informally mediating" ordinary cases. Decisions not to prosecute are not routinely reviewed and no policy guides informal mediation. The result is fewer convictions in cases that matter despite increased resources. NPA policy says prosecution should occur when there is "a reasonable prospect of success" and no public interest reason for not prosecuting. Figures reported in NPA annual reports show that "a reasonable prospect" seems to mean a near-certainty: in 2015-16 the NPA achieved a 93% conviction rate. The rate has gone up steadily from 82% in 2002-03. Unfortunately, the increase has been associated with a drop in the number of convictions — 13% fewer since 2002-03. Why have convictions dropped ...

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