Date: 28 April 2020
Court: District Court of Queensland
Judicial Officer: Farr SC DCJ
Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) Sections: s 32
Rights Considered: Rights in criminal proceedings: right to a trial without unreasonable delay
Other Legislation: Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) ss 614 and 615

Keywords: Criminal law proceedings; Fair trial; COVID-19

The court considered an application for a no-jury trial and whether it is in the interests of justice for the trial to proceed on a judge alone basis. The right to be tried without unreasonable delay (Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) s 32(2)(c)) was considered relevant, but there was no substantive discussion of the right or its application.

The applicant faced charges of indecent treatment of a child under 16 under care, maintaining a sexual relationship with a child, and three counts of rape. The applicant sought, pursuant to sections 614 and 615 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld), a no jury order in relation to the trial of these matters. The prosecution did not object to the application.

Farr SC DCJ held that in an application of this nature, the principal consideration is whether a trial without a jury is in the interests of justice: at [5]. His Honour also highlighted the relevance of section 32(c) of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld), which provides that an accused person is entitled to a trial without unreasonable delay: at [5]. It was noted that the speedy resolution of criminal matters is in every party’s best interests, and that it is in the interests of justice to hear the trial as quickly as possible: at [6].

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, jury trials in Queensland ceased in March 2020 and it was not known at the time of the application when they would recommence. His Honour remarked that ‘given the uncertainty as to when a trial by jury might otherwise be reached, and given the breadth of the term “in the interests of justice”, it is my view – and, particularly, of course, given that there is no objection to the application, that it would certainly be in the interests of justice in this matter for a trial to occur before a judge alone:’ at [6]. Therefore, the application was allowed and a no jury order was made in relation to the conduct of the trial.

Visit the reported judgement: RTM v The Queen [2020] QDC 93 (PDF, 167.7 KB)