Court process

Prosecutions commenced by the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor (WHSP) are heard in the following courts:

Magistrates Courts for:

  • the hearing of all summary offences under the :
    • Work Health and Safety Act 2011 (including category 2 and 3 offences)
    • Electrical Safety Act 2002
    • Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011
    • Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Explosives Act 1999
    • Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004
  • committals in relation to indictable offences of reckless conduct - category 1 and industrial manslaughter under the:
    • Work and Health and Safety Act 2011
    • Electrical Safety Act 2002
    • Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011
  • committals in relation in industrial manslaughter under the:
    • Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Explosives Act 1999
    • Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004
  • contraventions of enforceable undertakings
  • contraventions of a civil penalty provision.

Industrial Magistrates Courts for:

  • all offences under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 and Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999, other than industrial manslaughter.

District Court of Queensland for:

  • indictable offences of reckless conduct - category 1 and industrial manslaughter under the:
    • Work Health and Safety Act 2011
    • Electrical Safety Act 2002
    • Safety in Recreational Water Activities Act 2011
  • indictable offences of industrial manslaughter under the:
    • Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Explosives Act 1999
    • Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999
    • Petroleum and Gas (Production and Safety) Act 2004

Court process

Once the complaint has been laid, the court will govern the course the matter will take. This will depend on the court and what approach the parties take to the matter (e.g. if the defendant chooses to enter a guilty plea or seeks to adjourn the matter to a later date and time).

If the defendant pleads guilty to the offence, the court will hear submissions from the parties and make a determination in relation to the appropriate sentence. 

If the defendant pleads not-guilty, the matter is listed for hearing or trial. Depending on the matter, a hearing or trial may take a day, several days, or longer, and may, in the case of a hearing, be split during a period of weeks or months (e.g. the matter may be part heard in May and then adjourned until August for further hearing). How long it takes, and when it is heard, will depend upon the individual matter, as well as the availability of courts and the parties.

If a matter proceeds to hearing or trial, the court may choose to deliver its decision on the final day of the hearing or may reserve the decision for a later time.

Steps in the court process

Category 1 and Industrial Manslaughter offences are crimes and proceed by way of a committal hearing in the Magistrates Court. If it is determined that there is a case to answer, an indictment will then be presented in the District Court of Queensland. These matters are heard before a judge and a jury.

Summary offences (those other than Category 1 or Industrial Manslaughter) are dealt with in the Magistrates Courts or Industrial Magistrates Courts and are heard and determined by a single Magistrate.

A Magistrate or Judge can make a variety of orders that relate to a case at any stage in the proceedings, for example, they can make orders requiring the exchange of material between the parties, adjourn the matter to another date and time or set the matter down for trial.

When a matter is first before a Magistrates Court or Industrial Magistrates Court, this may be referred to as the 'first mention' or ‘first return' of the matter.

Sentencing options

A range of sentencing options is available to Magistrates and Judges in Queensland under the Acts creating the offences provisions, as well as the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, including:

  • imprisonment
  • monetary fines
  • probation
  • community service
  • a good behaviour bond
  • restitution.

The Work Health and Safety Act 2011 also provides for:

  • adverse publicity orders
  • restoration orders
  • training orders
  • a court-ordered WHS undertaking
  • work health and safety project orders.

Upon conviction for a summary offence under the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999, Explosives Act 1999, Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999 and Petroleum and Gas (Safety and Production) Act 2004, a Magistrate or Industrial Magistrate may, in addition to anything he or she may do under the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992, order:

  • that the person convicted pay the prosecution’s reasonable costs of investigating, and preparing for the prosecution of, the offence
  • the forfeiture of anything used to commit the offence.

Additionally, upon conviction for a summary offence under the either the Coal Mining Safety and Health Act 1999 or Mining and Quarrying Safety and Health Act 1999, an Industrial Magistrate may, on application by the WHSP, order that a certificate of competency or site senior executive notice be suspended or cancelled.

Appeals

Appeals from decisions made by a Magistrates Court (summary matters) are usually brought pursuant to section 222 of the Justices Act 1886 and heard by a single judge of the District Court of Queensland. Appeals from decisions of an Industrial Magistrates Court are heard by a single judge of the Industrial Court of Queensland. Appeals from District Court decisions for category 1 offences (reckless conduct) and industrial manslaughter (indictable offences) are made to the Court of Appeal.

Pursuant to the Justices Act 1886, the applicable period for parties to appeal a decision in a summary matter is one month from the sentencing date (or in the case of indictable offences, pursuant to section 671 of the Criminal Code, one calendar month). Under the Industrial Relations Act 2016, the applicable period for parties to appeal the decision of an Industrial Magistrate in a summary matter is 21 days.  

Records of court process and decisions

Decisions of Magistrates are usually not published. Transcripts of court proceedings, including sentencing remarks, can be purchased from Auscript via 1800 287 274. Judgments from appeal decisions are usually published on the Queensland Supreme Court Library website.

Recording of convictions

The Magistrate or Judge determining a matter has the discretion to record or not record a conviction in accordance with section 12 of the Penalties Act.