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Duty To Report Deaths In Custody

What the law says

Sections 7 of the Coroners Act Queensland states:

  1. (1) This section applies if-
    • (a) a person becomes aware of a death that appears to be a reportable death; and
    • (b) the person does not reasonably believe that someone else has already reported, or is reporting, the death under subsection (2)
  2. (2) The person must immediately report the death to-
    • (a) if the death is a death in custody-the State Coroner or Deputy State Coroner; or
    • (b) otherwise-a police officer or coroner.

Section 10

  1. (1) A person's death is a death in custody if, when the person died, the person was-
    • (a) In custody; or
    • (b) Escaping or trying to escape, from custody; or
    • (c) Trying to avoid being put into custody.
  2. (2) In this section-
    Custody means detention-
    • (a) by a police officer; or
    • (b) under the Corrective Services Act 2000-
      • (i) in a corrective services facility or watch-house; or
      • (ii) under the escort of a corrective services officer; or
      • (iii) by a law enforcement agency; or
      • (iv) by the proper officer of the court; or
    • (c) under the Corrective Services Act 2000, section 104; or
    • (d) under the Juvenile Justice Act 1992, section 54, 56, 175 or 176.
  3. Detention includes detention under-
    • (a) Arrest; or
    • (b) The authority of a court order; or
    • (c) The authority of an Act.

What the police must prove

In order for the Police to prove their case at Court, they must prove each of the following matters beyond a reasonable doubt.

Section 8

  1. A person's death is a reportable death only if the death is a death to which subsection (2) and subsection (3) both apply.
  2. A death is a reportable death if-
    • (a) the death happened in Queensland; or
    • (b) although the death happened outside Queensland-
      • (i) the person's body is in Queensland; or
      • (ii) at the time of death, the person ordinarily lived in Queensland; or
      • (iii) the person, at the time of death. Was on a journey to or from somewhere in Queensland; or
      • (iv) the death was caused by an event that happened in Queensland.
  3. A death is a reportable death if-
    • (a) it is not known who the person is; or
    • (b) the death was a violent or otherwise unnatural death; or
    • (c) the death happened in suspicious circumstances; or
    • (d) the death was not reasonably expected to be the outcome of a health procedure; or
    • (e) a cause of death certificate has not been issued, and is not likely to be issued. For the person; or
    • (f) the death is a death in care; or
    • (g) the death is a death in custody.

It will be necessary for the Police in every offence to prove that the accused was the person who committed the offence. Click here to learn more about identification evidence.

Maximum penalty

The Maximum penalty for the offence of Failing to Report Deaths is 25 penalty units.

Which court will hear the matter

This matter is summary which means it is dealt with Magistrates Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to this offence include but are not limited to

  1. The death happened outside Queensland and was reported to a non-Queensland coroner.
  2. The death was not a reportable death under Section 8 of the Coroner's Act as above.
  3. The person was not in custody at the time of their death.
  4. The accused reasonably believed another person had reported the death (eg. A senior officer, a corrections officer, an officer of the court)
 

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