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    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Premier in Western Queensland
    The Honourable Kerry Shine

    Judge Only Trials and Majority Verdicts to Create More Robust Court System

    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Minister Assisting the Premier in Western Queensland
    The Honourable Kerry Shine

    Thursday, September 11, 2008

    Judge Only Trials and Majority Verdicts to Create More Robust Court System

    Important reforms to create a more robust and equitable justice system have been passed through State Parliament.

    Attorney-General and Minister for Justice Kerry Shine said the Criminal Code and Jury and Another Act Amendment Bill will allow for Judge only trials and majority verdicts for juries in major overhauls to the justice system.

    “By passing these laws the Bligh Government has ensured we have the mechanisms at hand to respond to a range of situations, allowing Queensland’s justice system to remain dynamic and responsive to community expectations,” Mr Shine said.

    “The introduction of judge only trials brings Queensland in line with other Australian states.

    “Judge only trials will only be allowed to take place after an application from the defence or the prosecution and only if a judge determines it is appropriate after considering the circumstances of the case.

    “In trials where the prosecution applies for a ‘judge only’ trial, it will only proceed if the accused consents.

    “We believe this initiative will ensure our system of justice can strike a greater balance between the rights of the accused, the right of victims of crime and the courts’ capacity to ensure trials proceed in a timely and appropriate manner.”

    Mr Shine said the introduction of majority jury verdicts also brings Queensland into line with the majority of other Australian jurisdictions and may help reduce the number of hung juries in Queensland.

    “A Judge will only be able to consider a majority verdict if a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision after a long deliberation - where one juror dissents after a deliberation of more than eight hours,” he said.

    “If at that time, after the judge considers the deliberations of the jury to be genuinely locked, a majority verdict can be accepted by the court as long no more than one juror is in dissent.

    “In the case of trials for the most serious criminal offences - which carry a mandatory life sentence - unanimous verdicts have been retained.

    Mr Shine said the Bill also clarified the Crime and Misconduct Commission’s legal authority to compel witnesses to answer questions during an inquiry.

    “Clarifying this issue means that the CMC can continue to be effective and operate in the manner in which it has always been intended.”

    “There are a range of matters at various stages of the CMC’s investigative process that could have been jeopardised if we did not clarify the laws through these amendments,” he said.


    Media Contact: Troy Davies 3239 6400 or 0488 799 273