Publishing policy - workplace prosecutions
Prosecution outcomes and other enforcement information
The Department of Justice and Attorney-General publishes information about prosecutions and enforceable undertakings.
Publishing prosecution-related information and enforceable undertakings encourages compliance with Queensland's work health and safety and electrical safety laws by:
- educating duty holders and the community about the consequences of non-compliance
- identifying the need for real and sustainable improvement in safety practices in Queensland workplaces to reduce the toll from work-related death, injury and illness
- increasing awareness of the need to protect individuals, families and the community from deaths, injuries and property loss caused by electricity and workplace incidents
- providing information about how to prevent similar breaches.
The department endeavours to ensure that all information it publishes is accurate, impartial and balanced, and encourages compliance with Queensland's work health and safety and electrical safety laws.
The department draws public and media attention to factual information about charges which have been laid before the courts, but takes great care to avoid any publicity which could prejudice a fair trial.
The department also strives to ensure the information it publishes is not defamatory, does not violate the rule and conventions relating to sub judice (cases that are still being considered or are before the courts), or in any other way prejudices the fair hearing or objectivity required in such matters.
The department publicises prosecution-related information and enforceable undertakings via:
- Media statements: The department issues media releases and responds to media enquiries, including on occasion granting media interviews to print, broadcast and online media outlets.
- Conferences and public forums: Departmental representatives participating in public forums such as safety conferences disseminate information and statistics on prosecutions and enforceable undertakings.
- Publications: The department publishes a wide variety of printed publications or printable versions of online publications which contain information on prosecutions and enforceable undertakings.
- Research: The department collects and publishes data and statistics on notices issued, fines imposed, successful prosecutions and accepted enforceable undertakings.
Approach to public comment and publishing of information
Investigations: The department, if requested, will confirm the start of an investigation to clarify factual and procedural matters and to avoid speculation in the media.
The department generally will not comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation.
To protect the privacy of people involved in workplace incidents involving safety issues, no personal identifying information is released publicly except as part of a legal proceeding.
Comment on court proceedings prior to their resolution will generally only be made in relation to particular steps in the court process.
The department will also, from time to time as it deems appropriate, publish relevant information such as industry alerts on urgent safety issues.
Prosecution and trial: Information released by the department in relation to the issuing of charges, the start of prosecution proceedings, or trial will generally be in response to a media enquiry, but may also be by issuing a media release and posting information to the website. Information issued is confined to stating facts only.
Identifying information of the defendant(s) will be published, but no information relating to any injured persons, or involved third parties will be released. Any description of the incident will be factual, brief and in no way suggest that the charges are well-founded, infer guilt or are likely to succeed or not.
Guilty finding: Upon a finding of guilt by the court, the department may publish identifying information in relation to the defendant(s), the offence, the penalty imposed and related matters. General comment may also be made about relevant systemic or industry issues such as the prevalence of a risk or hazard, methods for its control, or prevalence of a particular industrial practice.
Where charges are not proven: Where the alleged offender is found not guilty at trial or the charges are withdrawn, the department may publish identifying information in certain circumstances such as to clarify the status of proceedings (e.g. where requested by the person who has been found not guilty or against whom charges have been withdrawn). Such information will be limited to information that is already in the public domain as a result of the prosecution process.
Where a finding is under appeal: The words 'under appeal' will be highlighted in the information posted to the website as soon as the department receives official written notification of the appeal having been lodged.
Where a conviction is overturned on appeal: All information on the case will be withdrawn from the department's website as soon as the department receives official written notification of the judgment quashing the conviction.
Where a sentence is overturned on appeal: Any change to the sentence as a result of an appeal will be indicated in the information posted to the website as soon as the department receives official written confirmation.
Queensland's work health and safety and electrical safety laws give the courts considerable scope to punish offenders and to deter others, including imprisonment for some offences.
The department publishes the maximum penalties presently available to the courts under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011 and the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011, the Electrical Safety Act 2002 and the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002.
The department will not comment on penalties imposed in specific cases by magistrates in proceedings heard before the Industrial Magistrates Court or the Queensland Industrial Court.
However, it will continue to seek to raise courts' awareness of the gravity of safety and industrial relations offences and of the full extent of their sentencing powers, while recognising that it is for the courts to decide whether or not someone is guilty and what penalty if any to impose on conviction.
Public register of prosecutions and enforceable undertakings
All prosecutions which result in a successful conviction, and in respect of work health and safety and electrical safety breaches, all applications for enforceable undertakings in lieu of prosecution accepted by the department will be published on the department's website and listed in its annual report.
Information published on the website aims to be accessible to everyone and will identify how to improve systems and work practices to prevent similar breaches.
What information is published on the register and for how long?
The department prosecutes companies and individuals for breaches of work health and safety and electrical safety laws. Identifying details of both companies and individuals who are defendants will be published.
Where there is a successful prosecution but an order is made that no conviction is to be recorded, the department will remove information from the court summary to avoid breach of the court's order and infringement of section 12 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992.
Cases will appear on the website for five years and will then be removed and archived. Cases against individuals under the age of 18 will appear on the website but will not include identifying details.
What information is not published on the register?
Examples of information that may not be published includes information about:
- Breaches which did not lead to a court case and were dealt with using other enforcement options, including infringement, improvement and prohibition notices. However, public comment may be made if it is deemed to be in the public interest.
- Unsuccessful cases, where the court decided the department had not proven its case and ruled in favour of the defendant.
- Cases where a conviction was overturned on appeal.
The department enforces work health and safety and electrical safety legislation that cover most industry sectors in Queensland. The department does not publish information related to prosecutions outside of its jurisdiction.
Enforceable undertakings are made public through this website and through advertising in relevant newspapers. Accepted enforceable undertakings will appear on the website for five years.
Some information may not be published including information that:
- is considered to be personal
- may be commercial in confidence
- should not be disclosed because its release would be contrary to the public interest
- is deemed to carry legal professional privilege.
The copy of the enforceable undertaking published to the website will include the reason for certain information being deleted.
The department may also choose to issue a media release when an enforceable undertaking is accepted.
Obtaining more details
- Obtaining more information on published prosecutions can be made through either the department's Administrative release of information policy or a Right to information application.
Complaints about published information
The department has a formal complaint management policy and process in place to ensure that complaints are addressed appropriately. The policy aims to promote public confidence in the department by ensuring openness and transparency in handling complaints about its services and/or products.
Prosecutions outcomes and details of enforceable undertakings are published in accordance with the department's privacy plan. If an individual considers that the department has not dealt with their personal information in accordance with privacy principles, they are entitled to lodge a complaint.