Investigating major crime: use of the coercive hearings power
The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has the power to call witnesses to coercive hearings and compel them to answer questions and/or produce documents. Hearings may be held as part of its own investigations or at the request of other law enforcement agencies, if certain legislative requirements are met.
A CCC hearing is different from a police interview because:
- A witness must answer the questions put to them — the right to silence does not apply and the privilege against self-incrimination does not provide a basis for refusal to answer
- It is an offence to lie at a CCC hearing — an untruthful witness may be liable to prosecution for perjury.
How the CCC becomes involved in QPS investigations
The CCC becomes involved in QPS crime investigations through specific and general referrals considered by the Crime Reference Committee.
General referrals involve broad categories of major crime comprising organised crime (offences punishable by at least 7 years imprisonment), serious crime (offences punishable by at least 14 years imprisonment), criminal paedophilia and terrorism.
Specific referrals are sought for a particular incident of major crime that does not fall within a general referral. They are usually initiated by the Commissioner of Police.
Crime Reference Committee members: Senior Executive Officer (Crime), CCC Chairman, Commissioner (Queensland Police Service), Principal Commissioner (Queensland Family and Child Guardian) and two community members.
Accountability and conduct of coercive hearings
The CCC’s hearings power is overseen by the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee and the Parliamentary Commissioner. The Crime Reference Committee also has a key role in considering, monitoring and, if applicable, limiting the use of powers or stopping the CCC’s involvement in an investigation for which hearings are being conducted. Certain decisions that relate to the conduct of hearings may be appealed to, or judicially reviewed in, the Supreme Court.
- Between August 2013 and December 2013 the CCC investigated a series of violent incidents involving a shooting and serious assault on the Gold Coast. In the aftermath of hearings, two persons were charged with a range of offences including torture, assault occasioning bodily harm whilst armed in company, and acts intended to maim.
- In July 2012 the Queensland Police Service (QPS) commenced a murder investigation after receiving a report that a man had been shot on a remote rural property. The investigation was hindered by limited eyewitness evidence and the absence of a body or murder weapon. In September 2012 the investigation was referred to the CCC. Hearings were held in Cairns and Brisbane concurrently over two consecutive weeks in October. In late October two persons were charged with murder.
- In March 2014 seventeen unlicensed firearms were uncovered, including two sub-machine guns, as a direct result of hearings in support of a QPS investigation. Additional charges were laid, including a charge of perjury.
Vulnerable victims: infants and children
In 2012–14 the CCC used its coercive hearings powers to assist with 12 investigations into deaths and/or grievous bodily harm to 17 infants and children occuring in a domestic environment and where allegedly a parent or caregiver was responsible. In 8 of these matters the hearings assisted the QPS to progress criminal charges and enabled police to identify:
- the true offender/s
- other children exposed to risk that required care or supervision from Child Safety Services
- a parent who can be excluded from criminal involvement (resulting in that parent recovering custody of other children within the family)
- other offences involving children within the family.
Hearings across Queensland
During 2012–14 a total of 475 days of hearings in relation to 71 major crime investigations were conducted across Queensland.
Locations where CCC hearings were conducted in 2012–14.