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.
If you would like to understand the roles that different people play in the legal system click here
Commonly, families first become aware of a homicide when their local police arrive on their doorstep. The Detective may ask the family to assist with the investigation by providing one or multiple statements and by allowing them to execute search warrants in order to gather evidence. The location of the homicide is declared a crime scene; if this is the family’s home they may be asked to find alternative housing until the police have released the crime scene over for clean-up (clean-up is carried out by specialist crime scene clean-up investigations and QHVSG or your Detective can assist with organising this). QHVSG often assists families to access emergency accommodation (often at no cost to the family) in their local area.
This means that the defendant is released into the community; however, they are expected to attend court proceedings until the verdict is administered. There are usually orders or conditions placed on the accused whilst on bail and if these orders are breached, then the accused may be remanded back into custody for the duration of the court process. If the accused has been granted bail and a family or individual feels their lives are in dancer or have other concerns, then you should speak with the detective in your case or contact QHVSG.
Mentions can occur at any time during the legal process and essentially this is an opportunity for both the prosecution and the defence to meet before a Judge or Magistrate and to re-evaluate where the case is, and how far away both parties are from proceeding to the next stage.
It isn’t necessary for families to attend. Mentions generally only last for a few minutes, and the offender is generally not present, and QHVSG does not encourage individuals to attend mentions.
Families can encourage the Detective handling their case to let them know the outcome of the mention, for example, another mention or a date been set to proceed to the committal hearing or trial.
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.
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.
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.
An inquest is a formal court hearing that is conducted by the Coroner. Coronial inquests are public hearings held to examine the cause and circumstances surrounding the death of somebody in unusual or unnatural circumstances. Inquests are conducted by magistrates in their role as coroners
The Coroner’s roll is to examine the circumstances surrounding a death; however, proceedings are conducted without utilising the rules of evidence as would normally apply in general court proceedings. A Coroner will investigate all ‘reportable’ deaths. In certain types of deaths, including certain homicide related deaths, the investigation will include an inquest.
However, the Coroner may decide that an inquest is not necessary after examining such things as witness’s statements and medical reports. It is usually the police officers and medical practitioners who will notify the Coroner, however it is open to any person to notify the Coroner if they believe that the death is considered ‘reportable’.
Once an offender has been found (or plead) guilty, a date will be set for sentencing. This is again heard at the Supreme Court, in front of a judge, however no jury is present. You and your family are welcome to attend (as it is usually an open court). Sentencing can last for one or more hours during which time the prosecution and defence illustrate the reasons for seeking a particular length of time spent in custody.
The judge, having heard these arguments and considered the evidence, will then outline the offenders’ sentence, including their non-parole period and their reasons why.
An appeal is when the offender or defence lawyer is not satisfied with the decision made from either jury or judge and wishes for a review of the evidence and have their sentence altered.
Generally the appeal period is one calendar month from the day of conviction; however the court of appeal has discretion to allow applications outside of this timeframe. Once an appeal has been lodged, the matter will be given a hearing whereby a panel of judges will re-examine the evidence and consider the defendants complaint.
Membership of Parole Boards is prescribed by the Corrective Services Act 2006 and must include a president and deputy president, each of whom is either a retired judge or a lawyer who has practiced for at least five years.
Of the other five appointed members, at least one must be an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander person, one must be a doctor or psychologist and at least two must be women. One member is a nominated representative of Queensland Corrective Services.
The required number of members on a regional board is decided by the Minister but must include the president of the Queensland Board, a deputy president and others members with similar qualifications as those on the Queensland Board
In considering an application for release to a parole order the board holds community safety paramount. The Board takes a number of factors into account, including:
- 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.
Any child above the age of criminal responsibility who is charged with murder can be tried in an adult court.
Within Queensland the minimum age for criminal responsibility is considered at age ten years, whereas the maximum age to be tried as a juvenile is aged sixteen – although special considerations can be taken into account.
Special conditions apply to trying juveniles within an adult’s court, including potentially, the family of the victim being refrained from entering the hearing. It is important you notify QHVSG if the offender in your case is a juvenile, so we can work with you to ensure your involvement in the hearings.
Attending the trial when a loved one has been the victim of homicide can be a traumatic experience. Not all families want, or are able; to sit through a trial and even if they do it can often be difficult to understand the proceedings at the time of the trial.
Sometimes families find later, they yearn to read the testimony given my witnesses at the trial and simply digest what has happened or to gather information to go towards an appeal or civil suit. Auscript can make available to suitable persons, the transcripts of your trial, these are available free of charge to one member of the family.
Please note that we are unable to help facilitate access to transcript from the Committal Hearing. These are available at the Magistrate’s Court where the case was heard.