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Duty To Report Deaths

What the law says

Section 7 of the Coroners Act, Queensland states:

  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. 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 8 of the Coroners Act, Queensland states:

  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 was a death in care; or
    • (g) the death was a death in custody.
  4. However, a death that happened outside Queensland is not a reportable death if the death has been reported to a non-Queensland coroner.

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:

  1. You became aware of a death; AND
  2. It appeared that:
    • (a) The death:
      • (i) happened in Queensland; OR
      • (ii) happened outside Queensland, but the deceased person's body is in Queensland; OR
      • (iii) happened outside Queensland, but the deceased person ordinarily resided in Queensland; OR
      • (iv) happened outside Queensland, but the deceased person was on a trip to or from Queensland at the time of death; OR
      • (v) happened outside Queensland, but the death was caused by an event that occurred in Queensland; AND
    • (b) the death:
      • (i) was of a person who is unknown; OR
      • (ii) was a violent or otherwise unnatural death; OR
      • (iii) happened in suspicious circumstances; OR
      • (iv) was not reasonably expected to be the outcome of a health procedure; OR
      • (v) is a death where the cause of death certificate has not been issued, and is not likely to be issued, for the person; OR
      • (vi) was a death in care; OR
      • (vii) was a death in custody; AND
  3. You failed to report the death to:
    • (a) the Coroner where it appeared to be a death in custody; OR
    • (b) the police or Coroner in respect of any other death; AND
  4. You did not reasonably believe that some one else was reporting or had reported, the death.

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

Maximum penalty - 25 penalty units.

Penalty unit = $100.00

Which court will hear the matter

Under section 3(5) of the Criminal Code Act  Queensland this offence is classed a simple offence and therefore may be heard in the Magistrates Court pursuant to section 19 of the Justices Act Queensland.

It is also possible that your matter will be heard in the District Court.

Possible defences

Possible defences to the offence include, but are not limited to:

  1. You were never in fact aware of the death.
  2. You in fact reported the death as required.
  3. You reasonably believed that someone else was reporting or had reported the death as required.
  4. You were aware of the death, but it did not appear that:
    • (a) the death happened in Queensland; OR
    • (b) the deceased person's body was in Queensland; OR
    • (c) the deceased person ordinarily resided in Queensland; OR
    • (d) the deceased person was on a trip to or from Queensland at the time of death; OR
    • (e) the death was caused by an event that occurred in Queensland.
  5. You were aware of the death, but it did not appear that:
    • (a) the person was unknown; OR
    • (b) it was a violent or otherwise unnatural death; OR
    • (c) it happened in suspicious circumstances; OR
    • (d) it was not reasonably expected to be the outcome of a health procedure; OR
    • (e) it was a death where the cause of death certificate had not been issued, and was not likely to be issued, for the person; OR
    • (f) it was a death in care; OR
    • (g) it was a death in custody.
  6. The death occurred outside Queensland and the death had already been reported to a non-Queensland Coroner.
  7. Duress - example: there was a threat of harm to the accused or another person that the accused reasonably believe would be carried out if he/she reported the death to the coroner.
  8. Insanity.
  9. Identification i.e. the accused was not the offender.
 

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