Criminal Law Article written by Bill Potts (Queensland criminal defence lawyer who is experienced in Queensland Coroner matters)
Queensland Law – The Queensland Coroner (the Coroner) – What is It? – Lawyer / Solicitor Article
The Queensland Coroner (the Coroner), is a body that was created for the main purpose of investigating deaths that appear as though they may be the result of unnatural causes. The Coroner has investigative powers pursuant to the Coroner’s Act, Queensland.
The Coroner has the power the collect evidence just like the Police, however the Coroner also has the special investigative power to call an Inquest that Police do not have. At the Inquest, the Coroner’s Court can order persons to attend and give evidence on oath and/or produce documents. Failure to comply with an order of the Coroner’s Court can be an offence and may result in penalties, including imprisonment.
Note that there is a similar Queensland body that deals with serious crime, called the Crime and Misconduct Commission. Click here to learn more. Further, there is an federal body that deals with serious crime, called the Australian Crime Commission. Click here to learn more.
The Queensland Coroner (the Coroner) – Duty to Report Deaths and Help with Investigations – What are my Rights and Obligations? – Lawyer / Solicitor Article
Every individual has a duty to report the death of a person to the Police or the Corner where the death appears in someway to be unnatural. Failure to report such a death can be an offence. Click here to learn more.
Further, every individual has a duty to assist the Coroner with investigations upon request. Again, failure to do so can be an offence. Click here to learn more.
The Queensland Coroner (the Coroner) – I’ve been Ordered to Attend an Inquest – What are my Rights and Obligations? – Lawyer / Solicitor Article
If you have been ordered to attend an inquest by the Coroner’s Court to attend and give evidence on oath and/or to produce documents, you must comply with that order fully. Failure to comply fully can be an offence. Click here to learn more.
Where you are ordered to attend the Coroner’s Court to give evidence, you will be required to give evidence on oath just as you would at the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court. However, an Inquest is not a Trial. Rather, the purpose of an Inquest is to gather information and any evidence will be given before a Coroner.
You must not give false or misleading statements or documents to the Coroner, to do so may also to an offence. Click here to find out more about false or misleading statements or Click here to find out more about false or misleading documents.
You are entitled to have a legal representative with you during the hearing, who may object to questions being asked of you when giving evidence. However, the objections that can be made are more limited than what would be available if you were before the Magistrates, District or Supreme Court.
It is important that you understand that pursuant to section 39 of the Coroners Act, you have NO right to silence when it comes to a Coroner’s Inquest. This means you have no right to refuse to provide documents or answer questions. Even where the document or answer may be self-incriminating, the Coroner can still require you to provide the document or answer under section 39(2) of the Coroners Act.
However, sections 39(3) and 39(4) of the Coroner’s Act provide some protection where the answer or document provided is self-incriminating. It says that any evidence you give or document you produce during the course of the Coroner’s Inquest, cannot be used against you in any proceeding (criminal, civil or otherwise). It is important to note that there is one exception to that protection, namely if the proceeding is in respect of perjury (that is, lying on oath).
You also have an obligation not to disclose any confidential information about the Coroner’s Inquest, to do so may be an offence. Click here to find out more.