Under the Crime and Corruption Act 2001, the CCC has the legislative power to hold two types of coercive hearings. These are known as coercive investigative hearings and coercive intelligence hearings.
CCC coercive hearings are held in private and unlike open court proceedings or public hearings, they are not open to the public, including the media. Witnesses are entitled to be legally represented in any CCC coercive hearing and are permitted to discuss the subject matter of the hearing with their legal representative.
The power to hold coercive hearings is a key component of the CCC’s major crime function.
Coercive investigative hearings
Coercive crime investigative hearings are used to gather information and evidence not available by other investigative means in major crime investigations.
If certain legislative tests are met, the CCC can hold hearings to support its own major crime investigations and to assist the Queensland Police Service (QPS) and other law enforcement agencies with certain criminal investigations.
The CCC’s assistance is most often sought during investigations into serious crime such as unsolved murders and in organised crime investigations, often involving drug trafficking, money laundering or crimes involving the use of weapons.
The CCC can also hold coercive investigative hearings to support its corruption investigations.
The CCC holds hearings throughout Queensland to ensure regional investigations receive a similar level of support to those in metropolitan areas.
Coercive intelligence hearings
Coercive intelligence hearings are used to gather up-to-date and otherwise unobtainable intelligence about various aspects of organised crime activity in Queensland. These hearings are generally undertaken in close consultation with QPS Task Force Maxima.
Reporting on CCC hearings
The CCC’s power to hold coercive hearings is subject to a strict legal framework. Witnesses attending hearings are also subject to a strict legal framework. Before reporting on coercive hearings, members of the media should be aware of the following:
- Depending on the form of summons issued to a witness, it may be a criminal offence for a witness to inform another person, including the media, that they are scheduled to attend a CCC coercive hearing or have attended a CCC coercive hearing. See section 84 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
- It may be a criminal offence to publish without the CCC’s written consent any information that does identify, or might identify, a witness in a CCC coercive hearing. This offence applies both prior to, and following, the attendance of a witness. See section 202(1)(b) of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
- It may be a criminal offence for a person to reveal what occurred during a CCC coercive hearing. This offence extends to any further publication of that information by the media. See section 202(1)(a) of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
The CCC must also comply with legislation by not revealing details about its coercive hearings. In addition, the CCC is bound by general secrecy provisions outlined in section 213 of the Crime and Corruption Act 2001.
For these reasons, the CCC is generally unable to comment on, or confirm or deny, any details relating to coercive hearings.
Occasionally details of CCC coercive hearings are presented in open court as part of a criminal trial. Subject to any relevant court orders, media are generally free to report on matters revealed in open court.
The QPS occasionally issues media releases that confirm the CCC assisted with a major crime investigation. Sometimes those media releases confirm that the CCC held coercive hearings to support the QPS investigation. In these cases it is permissible for the media to report on the CCC’s hearings in a manner consistent with details in the QPS media release.
The CCC reports publicly to the Parliamentary Crime and Corruption Committee (PCCC). Statistical information about CCC hearings is usually contained in these public reports.
If members of the media receive information suggesting the CCC is involved in a major crime investigation, or information suggesting that a particular person is to attend or has previously attended a CCC coercive hearing, it is advisable to consider the legal constraints outlined in the Crime and Corruption Act 2001 before publishing such information.