Tackling alcohol fueled violence

New laws that could pass in Qld regarding alcohol fuelled violence will herald a raft of changes to the Liquor Act 1992 (Liquor Act), Liquor Regulation 2002 (Liquor Regulation), Gaming Machine Act 1991 (Gaming Machine Act), Bail Act 1980 (Bail Act), Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (PSA) and Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 (PPRA).

Aside from changes to lock out times, licensing and the sale of certain beverages other key changes include:

  • amending the Bail Act to no longer criminalise a failure to comply with a condition of bail imposed under section 11(9) (that is, participation in a rehabilitation, treatment or other intervention program or course). The amendment recognises the challenges associated with overcoming addiction.
  • amending the Penalties and Sentences Act to allow a sentencing judge to include the completion of a Drug and Alcohol Assessment Referral course as a condition with the consent of the defendant.
  • designating all police officers to be investigators under the Liquor Act.

A report from the committee is due this week.


Police Powers: Disobedience to Lawful Order

These days, most people carry a mobile phone with them everywhere they go. A mobile device can contain more information about a person than the rest of their belongings combined so it’s very unnerving for a stranger to be going through it.

Although in most situations a person is only required to provide a police officer with their name and address, search warrants can grant powers not normally available to police officers. For example, a warrant may include the power to compel someone to give the officer their phone pin.

If you are subject to a search warrant that includes this power, you must give police your mobile phone pin. If you fail to do so, you may be charged with the offence of ‘disobedience to lawful order issued by statutory authority’ which carries a maximum sentence of one year imprisonment.

If you or someone you know are subject to a police investigation or police warrant, it is vital you contact a solicitor for assistance and advice. Our firm can be contacted 24 hours a day for urgent advice.

Know your rights with police. To find out more, go to our FAQs.


24 Hour Service

Persons that have the unfortunate experience of being detained by police need advice.

Our firm is open throughout the Christmas period and we offer a 24 hour a day telephone service for those that require urgent advice.

Contact 3034 0000 to speak with an experienced solicitor from Robertson O’Gorman.


Queensland's Leading Lawyers

Each year Doyle’s produces a list of leading lawyers and law firms in different practice areas. For the first time in 2015 a specific Criminal Law list has been released, acknowledging those firms recognised by the broader legal profession for their expertise and abilities.

Robertson O’Gorman is proud to have been named a 2015 ‘first tier’ criminal law firm. Terry O’Gorman was also named one of Queensland’s preeminent criminal lawyers with Dan Rogers receiving recognition as a leading criminal lawyer.

Doyle’s full list is available here.


Australians on Drugs

The “2 High: A Week On Drugs” series is available for viewing now and includes live discussions and stories told by recreational drug users, drug addicts, drug dealers and those working through drug rehabilitation.

The series highlights the competing considerations associated with a seriously complex topic.

Many of the stories told draw out examples of the legal consequences associated with drug use and the inefficiencies of our current legal system in deterring people from using drugs.

Much debate is currently focussed on whether the personal use of illicit drugs should be decriminalised in order to encourage drug users to seek medical assistance in addressing problematic use or addiction.

Portugal amended their drug laws 14 years ago and removed criminal penalties for those found in possession of no more than 10 days’ supply of a substance.  The laws seek to minimise harm and reduce the health consequences that flow from drug use (for example: HIV/AIDS, hepatitis, overdose, mental disorder).

The Queensland Police Service gathers statistical information about convictions for each type of offence.  In the last 6 months there have been 12 convictions for the offence of trafficking drugs, 68 convictions for supply and 872 convictions for possessing drugs.  The overwhelming majority of convictions relate to end drug users.

The Queensland Justice System has made some effort to assist drug users.  If you are found in possession of a small amount of cannabis or a bong your matter could be suitable for police drug diversion.  If you are not eligible for police drug diversion (because you have had it before or because of the nature of your charges) you may still be eligible for Court Ordered drug diversion or for the Special Circumstances Court (which is about to be reintroduced).

If you are charged with drug offences you should seek legal advice so that you can explore the avenues open to you for resolution of the matter.  Your lawyer will also be able to provide you with information about drug rehabilitation in your area.


Queensland's Top 50 Thinkers

On 8  March 2015 the Sunday Mail released its list of Queensland’s 50 Top Thinkers. The list was described as including the best and brightest of people who have turned their minds to making society better. The people who have made Queensland the smart state. It was drawn from a broad range of backgrounds including science, medicine, education, business, politics, culture and sport.

Terry O’Gorman was included in the list for his work as a criminal defence lawyer and for his role as a civil libertarian, rallying against perceived abuses of police and political power. As the president of the Australian Council for Civil Liberties and vice-president of the Queensland Council Terry has been fighting for the rights of fellow Queenslanders for more than 40 years.


Answering Police Questions

Some people believe that the allegations against them are all a misunderstanding or that police won’t have any evidence; that it was the other person’s fault or that they have done nothing wrong.  If they just explain it to the police it will all be resolved.

Many think that simply by denying the allegations or providing false or misleading information all their problems will do away.

Others feel that talking to police is the decent thing to do and necessary to demonstrate that they are not guilty.  And yet others feel the need to confess everything to police.

Whatever your circumstances, getting legal advice before speaking to police is advisable.  You should understand the full legal consequences of what you are about to do first.  This is particularly important if you have a criminal history, are young, have an occupation where having a conviction recorded could be devastating for your future employment or where the potential charge is serious.

It is important to consider factors including the following:

  • If police believe they have enough evidence that you have committed an offence, generally you will be charged even if you deny the allegation.
  • Denying the allegations will rarely stop the charge process as it is up to the courts to decide innocence or guilt.
  • If police have approached you as a potential suspect and requested an interview, it is highly likely, almost certain, that they will charge you, regardless of what you say when questioned.
  • Do you want to add to the evidence that can be used against you?

Lawyers generally advise clients against answering police questions because it is the responsibility of the State to gather enough evidence to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt and we all have the right to silence.  Exercising your right to silence cannot be held against you in court.  However, there are limited circumstances when giving your version of events in a police interview may be in your best interests.

Remember that you are only required to provide your name and address to police.  You do not have to answer any other police questions.  We strongly advise that you get legal advice before answering any questions.  Police are required to delay questioning for a reasonable time to allow you to telephone or speak to a lawyer.

If you need legal advice, we are contactable 24 hours a day 7 days a week in emergencies so that even if police arrest or approach you after business hours we can still help.

ROBERTSON O’GORMAN 24hr EMERGENCY ASSISTANCE 3034 0000

If your call is not urgent please call during business hours.


Animal Cruelty Charge Dismissed

On 2 October 2014 the Brisbane Magistrates Court dismissed a charge of animal cruelty against our client, Mr Gunn.

Mr Gunn was represented by Kate Clark, solicitor of our firm.

In the face of significant public vilification Mr Gunn always maintained his innocence in the matter.

You can read more about this story here.


Blue Card Applications

We acted on behalf of “CON” who was the applicant to a QCAT application for the review of a decision made by the Commissioner for Children and Young People and Child Guardian. The Commissioner issued a negative notice to CON in response to their application for a Blue Card and positive notice.  CON had previous convictions for assault and had been the respondent to Protection Orders in the past.  The Commissioner had formed the view that CONs case was “exceptional” and that it would not be in the best interests of children to grant the application.

We sought the independent views of a registered psychologist and called witnesses at a contested hearing before QCAT.  Kate Clark of our firm appeared as Solicitor Advocate at the contested hearing.  QCAT made Orders to set aside the Commissioners decision to issue CON with a negative notice and to instead issue CON with a positive notice and Blue Card.

A copy of the full decision of QCAT may be found here.


WHAT IF WE ARE WRONG? THE RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH PREVENTIVE JUSTICE

On 29 July 2014 I attended a lecture delivered by Professor Lucia Zedner FBA Law Fellow, Corpus Christi College and Professor of Criminal Justice, University of Oxford, Conjoint Professor, Faculty of Law, UNSW.  The lecture presented by Professor Zedner and delivered by the Australian Academy of Law analysed the balancing act between protecting society from harm and the rights of the individual.  It also explored the roles of lawyers, Judges and academics in “distinguishing and delimiting preventive measures”.

During the course of the lecture the words “What if we are wrong?” rang through my ears.

Preventive justice is supposed to detect and anticipate when someone will likely commit an offence and then put into place protective features to stop them from doing so.  It is not supposed to be anticipatory punishment but rather a protective mechanism for society.

Our policy writers hold the overwhelming power associated with installing preventive laws into our justice system.  As we know, with great power comes great responsibility.  More recent legislative reforms would have us question whether this responsibility is being appropriately managed.  The introduction of the VLAD legislation, amendments to our Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 and the wide powers provided to star chambers are all cause for great concern.

In Queensland we have many preventive justice mechanisms embodied within our laws.  They range in terms of their implications.  The most basic form exists within our Police Powers and Responsibilities Act 2000 and Criminal Code.  In Chapter 2, Part 6 “breaches of the peace, riots and prevention of offences” for example provide the police with powers to detain people and suppress riots where they assess that there is “an imminent likelihood” that something is about to occur.  How is this power balanced to ensure that a full assessment is undertaken and not abused?  How is the deprivation of citizen/s liberty balanced with the protection of society?  What training do the police have to assess imminent risk on the fly?  What consequences exist if this preventive power is inappropriately applied?

In the Child Protection (Offender Reporting) Act 2004 those who have committed certain offences of a sexual kind are subject to strict reporting requirements for either 8 or 15 years.  The purpose of the Act is to “require particular offenders who commit sexual, or particular other serious, offences against children to keep police informed of their whereabouts and other personal details for a period of time after their release into the community:- (a) to reduce the likelihood that they will re-offend; and (b) to facilitate the investigation and prosecution of any future offences that they may commit.”  Many hold the view that the legislation provides another punitive measure imposed by the State in addition to the penalty imposed by the Judiciary at sentence.  The unfortunate reality is that there is no sliding scale on which the Act is assessed or implemented.  It is an all or nothing register which restricts the individual, waters down their privacy and also costs our State a great deal to implement.

The VLAD laws are the most frightening of all preventive measures taken to date.  These laws operate to discriminate unfairly against particular persons within our society.  The appropriate checks and balances of allowing the laws to be scrutinised by the legal community did not occur.

Without adequate debate and scrutiny we run the risk that we are wrong and that our laws will be vague and applied erratically or in a manner which is open for abuse.  Poorly assessed preventive laws do not offer our community security, they deprive citizens of their liberty, their rights and fosters injustice.

What if we are wrong?