Special Sub-Topic: Queensland Criminal Law
|SMACK! You really didn't expect the holiday to go like this. All you thought was "I'll spend a few days in Brisbane, check out the nightlife before I head up to Cairns to the Barrier Reef". But you punched a nightclub bouncer in the head when he refused you entry and you find yourself arrested by the Queensland Police Service and charged with Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm. In which court will you first have to appear?|
Magistrates' Court. The magistrate, on your first appearance, would be likely to grant an adjournment so you can seek legal advice. The other courts are trial courts and the Planning and Environment Court doesn't do many criminal trials. Obviously.
|If your solicitor can talk the Police Prosecutions Service into it, you may find the charge dropped to Common Assault. If so, you could have the matter dealt with in the Magistrates Court. What jurisdiction of the Maggies Court allows this to happen?|
Summary Jurisdiction. Summary Jurisdiction allows a Magistrate to be the "judge and jury and executioner" in a case. The Magistrate hears the evidence and decides if a person is guilty. If the verdict is guilty, the Magistrate also imposes the sentence or penalty.
|The Courts are pretty busy. Lets face it, all you criminals don't stop working just because we're in a recession. It may take a while for your matters to end up before the Court but you don't want to spend all that time in gaol. You may be allowed out on bail. Do you have a right to bail?|
y. Everyone has a prima facie right to bail. The Court must grant bail unless: 1. the Court considers that there is a likelihood of the accused person fleeing and not showing up at court; and/or 2. the Court condisers that there is a strong chance of the accused person committing further offences while on bail. The police can also grant bail, except for murder. You may find yourself having to surrender your passport or plane ticket home, though.
|OK, so you're granted bail. Which of these is a condition that might be imposed on that bail by the judge, magistrate or police officer who grants it?|
You must report to the local police station 5 days each week. A judge, magistrate or police officer who grants bail can set any conditions they want to ensure that the accused person will turn up at court when they are supposed to and won't commit any further offences. Realistically speaking, eating vegetables and avoidng red shirt wearers are unlikely. And there would be no point in granting bail of the condition that you stay in gaol.
|Because you are charged with Assault Occasioning Bodily Harm (AOBH) you will probably end up in the District Court. In that Court you can either plead guilty and be sentenced or plead not guilty and go to trial. In Court, what is the description of the person who will usually represent you in Court and do all the talking to the judge?|
Barrister. In the Australian legal system, there are 2 types of lawyers: solicitors and barristers. Solicitors are the ones the clients initially come to. They do the day-to-day work, take instructions from the client, interview potential witnesses, etc. Barristers are the people in the gowns and funny wigs who stand up in court and do the speaking. They generally have a better detailed knowledge of the law and particularly the rules of evidence and advocacy. Associates are judges' assistants. Articled Clerks are trainee solicitors.
|Your trial is going to be before a judge and jury. The two have very separate roles to play. The judge makes decisions on ...?|
questions of law. The judge makes decisions on questions of law such as whether barristers can ask certain questions, whether evidence is admissible and what the legal meaning of a section of legislation is. All other questions of fact, including guilt and innocence and the credibility of witnesses are the jury's sole domain.
|How many jurors need to agree on the verdict for you to be found "not guilty"?|
12. Queensland does not have majority verdicts. There are 12 members of a jury and all 12 of them must agree on any verdict. If they all think you are "not guilty" so be it. If they all think you are "guilty", you're going down. If some think one verdict and others disagree or simply can't decide, then there is no verdict. A judge will only give a jury a certain amount of time to decide. The length of time the jury will have will often depend on the seriousess of the charges. A jury in a murder trial may be allowed a lot longer to decide than in an assault trial.
|Queensland's criminal law is codified in the Criminal Code 1899. Which section of this legislation are you charged under?|
s.339. All these sections are found in Part 5 of the Criminal Code which deals with offences against the person. Thank your lucky stars you're not charged with any of the others. Section 320 is Grievous Bodily Harm; s.352 is Sexual Assault; s.302 is Murder. All a lot more serious than AOBH.
|Your barrister thinks you may be able to run a defence of intoxication. You were pretty drunk. That's why you were refused entry in the first place. What's the difficulty with this defence, though?|
You got drunk on purpose. If you set out to get drunk, and succeeded, the defence of intoxication won't help you. It only works if there was no intention to intoxicate yourself. Examples of this happening include having your drink spiked, taking medication which has an unexpected effect on you, or being drugged by someone who abducts you.
|I've got some bad news. The jury has gone out for about twenty minutes and come back with a verdict of... GUILTY! You really shouldn't have punched that guy in the face just because he wouldn't let you in for another drink. What is the maximum penalty you are facing?|
7 years imprisonment.. While the maximum is 7 years, for a first offender who shows remorse and has mitigating cricumstances, the sentence might not result in jail at all. You may get a steep fine, a period of probation or good behaviour, come community service and a driection to attending alcohol counselling or perhaps even a suspended sentence. You'll probably find it tough to get back into Australia again though.
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