Prosecutions commenced by the Work Health and Safety Prosecutor (WHSP) are heard in the following courts:
Magistrates Court of Queensland for:
- committals in relation to indictable offences including category 1 and industrial manslaughter
- category 2 and 3 offences
- contraventions of enforceable undertakings
- contraventions of a civil penalty provision
- all other offences.
District Court for
- category 1 offences (reckless conduct) and industrial manslaughter.
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 enters a plea of 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 enters a plea of not-guilty, the matter is listed for hearing. Depending on the matter, a hearing may take a day, several days or longer and may 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, 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 have a committal procedure in the Magistrates Court of Queensland. If it is determined that there is a case to answer, an indictment can then be presented in the District Court of Queensland. These matters are heard before a judge and a jury.
All matters dealt with before the Magistrates Court of Queensland (all offences other than Category 1 or Industrial Manslaughter) 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 the Magistrates Court of Queensland, this may be referred to as the 'first mention' or return date' of the matter.
A range of sentencing options is available to Magistrates or Judges in Queensland under the WHS Act and Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (the Penalties Act), including:
- monetary fines
- community service
- a good behaviour bond
The WHS Act also provides for:
- adverse publicity orders
- restoration orders
- training orders
- a court-ordered WHS undertaking
- work health and safety project orders.
Appeals from decisions made by the Magistrates Court of Queensland (summary matters) are usually brought in accordance with section 222 of the Justices Act 1886 (the Justices Act) and heard by a single judge of the District 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).
Records of court process and decisions
Decisions handed down by the Magistrates Court of Queensland are usually not published by the Court. 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.