Understanding what you (and your family) can expect during the investigation and subsequent trial of the offender is an important part of managing your grief. The following will give you a basic understanding of what to expect, although please keep in mind this list is in no way exhaustive list and we recommend you contact us for more information on your specific case.
The Committal Hearing will be heard in a Magistrates Court in the region in which your loved one died. These hearings are usually ‘open’, meaning that anyone has the right to attend and sit in the gallery at the back of the courtroom (refer to the Queensland Courts website for further information on the layout of the courtroom).
The hearing is heard in front of a “Magistrate” and it is up to them to weigh up the evidence and decide whether there is a ‘prima facie’ case; in other words, is there enough evidence to send the matter to trial at the Supreme Court. This is different to the Trial itself, where a jury of 12 people is responsible for determining the actual outcome.
Because of the nature of a Committal Hearing, families may find attending incredibly difficult. There is often a great deal of legal argument and jargon, as well as highly graphic evidence and testimony. Please remember QHVSG will try to provide families with a court peer supporter so please contact us to arrange.
On day one of the trial, a jury will be appointed, and the case will commence. Family members are welcome to be party to this by sitting in the gallery at the back of the court. Despite the overwhelming nature of this setting, it’s common to feel a sense of anger, frustration, and incredible pain as the facts are laid before the jury and witnesses relive their testimony. Again, please consider having a QHVSG (or family) court supporter with you during this time to help make the process a little easier.
On conclusion of the trial, the judge will sum up the case, the jury will go out to deliberate on the verdict, which will be either “guilty” (in which case the offender will be taken into custody), “not guilty” (in which case the accused will walk free from the courtroom), or a combination of both if there is more than one charge. If the accused has been found guilty, the case will be listed for sentencing.
- Dismissing the appeal (in which the original conviction / sentence applies)
- Remitting the matter back for a retrial
- Quashing the verdict and giving an acquittal verdict (in which the defendant is not guilty)
- Directing that there be no retrial without directing a verdict of acquittal
- Substituting a verdict of guilty of a different offence where the jury must have found an accused guilty of that other offence
- And, in exceptional circumstances, setting aside the conviction and entering a verdict of not guilty but insane
- (ref: http://www.courts.qld.gov.au)
Unfortunately, as a family member you will have little power over what occurs in, and the outcome of an appeal hearing. We recommend contacting QHVSG for support and information during this time.
The Queensland Parole Board makes decisions on parole for serious offenders serving sentences of eight years or more. The Regional Parole Boards make decisions regarding parole for offenders serving sentences in excess of three years but less than eight years. The President of the Queensland Parole Board is also the President of the Central and Northern Queensland Regional Parole Board and the Southern Queensland Regional Parole Board.
The Corrective Services Act 2006 introduced the new system that ensures all offenders serve their entire sentence either in custody or on parole. The sentencing court must set a parole release date for sentences of 3 years or less and not a serious violent offence or sexual offence. An offender commences parole on the release date and will be issued with a parole order with statutory conditions by the Chief Executive’s delegate.
The Parole Board’s role is to determine whether eligible offenders are ready for supervised released into the community. Parole orders may include conditions relating to a number of matters, including employment, accommodation, programs to be undertaken and curfews. However these conditions must be to ensure the offender’s good conduct or to stop the offender committing an offence.
Victims of crime who are registered with the Victims Register will be notified when an offender lodges an application for parole and invited to make a written submission to the Parole Board within 21 days. Parole Boards utilize video conferencing technology as appropriate, which improves safety and security as well as reducing offender transport needs. Parole Board members are appointed by the Governor in Council for a term of up to three years, and are eligible for reappointment.
- The nature of the offence
- the offender’s past offences and any patterns of offending;
- the possibility of the offender committing further offences;
- whether the offender has previously been granted an order and if so, whether the offender breached any conditions of that order;
- whether the offender has successfully completed programs of rehabilitation;
The institutional conduct of the offender whilst incarcerated
- The viability of the offender’s relapse prevention and release plans;
- The risk of physical or psychological harm to a member of the community and the degree of risk;
- Any behavioural report relating to the offender; and
- The sentencing Judge’s recommendation.
A case would be referred to the Mental Health Court to have the following questions answered:
- Was the alleged offender of unsound mind at the time of the offence?
- Is the alleged offender unfit for trial?
- Is the unfitness for trial permanent?
- If the charge is murder, was the alleged offender suffering from diminished responsibility at the time of the offence?
Because the Mental Health Court is not bound by the rules of evidence it is able to accept material that may otherwise be inadmissible in general court proceedings. To this effect, victims of homicide can make what is called a non-party statement for the Mental Health Court. Any member of the public may attend the hearing of a criminal case that has been referred to the Mental Health Court. However, the court may order the hearing or parts of it to be closed to the public if it is in the interests of justice. Hearings related to young persons (a person under 17) are not open to the public.
Hard copy registration forms are available from your local courthouse or alternatively we can mail the forms to you.
Who is eligible to be placed on the Victims Register?
To be eligible for registration, a person must be:
- the actual victim of an offence of violence or a sexual offence for which an offender has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment (unless it is wholly suspended) or who is a supervised dangerous prisoner (sexual offender);
- an immediate family member of a victim who has died as a direct result of an offence of violence;
- a parent or guardian of a victim of an offence of violence or sexual offence who has a legal incapacity or who is under 18 years.
Who is considered to be an ‘immediate family member’?
The Corrective Services Act 2006 defines ‘immediate family member’ as a person’s spouse, de facto, child, step-child, parent, step-parent, brother, sister, stepbrother, stepsister, grandparent or legal guardian. In the case of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, extended family relationships may also be recognised.
Can a victim nominate another person to register on their behalf?
Yes. If a victim of crime would prefer that someone else, such as a friend or family member (called a nominee), receive the information about the offender on their behalf, they should indicate this when applying for inclusion on the Register. A victim can also nominate a government or non-government agency to receive information on their behalf if that entity agrees e.g. children under the care of the Department of Communities – Child Safety or Justice Groups.
If you are unsure about your eligibility, please contact the Victims Register on 1800 098 098 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Can anyone else register?
A person who does not meet the above registration criteria may still be considered for placement on the Victims Register if the person can demonstrate:
- a documented history of violence against them by an offender e.g. a current Domestic Violence Order; or
- that their life or physical safety may be endangered due to a connection to the offence for which an offender has been imprisoned e.g. they may have given evidence against the offender in a court proceeding.
Applications submitted under this category will only be accepted for registration in certain circumstances. Information provided to applicants registered under this category may be limited to the actual release date of an offender.
What happens to an application to register once it is submitted to the Victims Register?
The Victims Register will assess a person’s eligibility for registration and may seek further information or clarification from either you or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Queensland Police Service or the Magistrates Court to verify offender details, charges, convictions and sentencing. Remember, the more information you can provide the quicker we can process your application. Court Victim Liaison Officers at your local courthouse can assist you to fill out your registration form or Victims Register staff can assist you over the phone.
Once an application has been approved and processed, the registered person or their nominee will receive a letter from us confirming their registration. This letter will also provide information about the offender’s charges, sentence, release and eligibility dates and the correctional centre in which the offender is currently accommodated or the Probation and Parole District Office which currently supervises them.
The Victims Register will inform registered victims when the offender experiences a change in his or her location, release dates, or if the offender lodges an application for parole. Information, in most cases and for security reasons, is provided after a change has taken place.
Even if there are no changes in an offenders circumstances, the Victims Register will write to you once a year to ensure that you have the most up to date information.