Date: 17 June 2020 (reasons published 1 July 2020)
Court: District Court of Queensland
Judicial Officer: Long DCJ
HRA Sections: ss 4(f), 32(2), 48(1), 58(1)
Rights Considered: Rights in criminal proceedings: right to a trial without unreasonable delay
Other Legislation: Criminal Code (Qld) ss 614, 615; Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) s 132; Jury Act 1995 (Qld) ss 57, 59, 59A; Youth Justice Act 1992 (Qld) ss 98, 102-105, Sch 1

Keywords: Criminal law proceedings; Fair trial; Interpretation

The respondent applied for a no jury trial in circumstances where measures in response to the COVID-19 pandemic had prevented all new jury trials from proceeding. The respondent raised the right to be tried without unreasonable delay in section 32(2)(c) of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld). The court found that the appropriate consideration was whether the making of a no jury order was ‘in the interests of justice.’

In this case, the respondent was charged with an offence of strangulation in a domestic setting and applied for a no jury order pursuant to section 614 of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld). This request was made on the basis that the COVID-19 pandemic has rendered the court unable to provide a current listing for a jury trial and may be unable to do so for many months. The respondent raised section 32(2)(c) of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld) in submissions, being the right to a trial without unreasonable delay, as an argument in support of the making of a no jury order.

Long DCJ adopted the approach of Horneman-Wren SC DCJ in R v Logan [2020] QDCPR 67 and held that the relevant consideration for the court was whether it was in the ‘interests of justice’ to make a no jury order, rather than whether not doing so would ‘contravene human rights.’ Pursuant to section 48 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld), the court determined that it must interpret the provisions of the Criminal Code Act 1899 (Qld) in a way that is compatible with human rights, but is not a public entity bound to make decisions in a way that gives consideration to human rights and is compatible with human rights pursuant to section 58 of the Human Rights Act 2019 (Qld): at [15]-[16]. This is because the court is acting in a judicial, rather than administrative, capacity when making a no jury order: at [15]. Here, the court found it appropriate and ‘in the interests of justice’ for the trial to proceed as a judge alone trial and a no jury order was made.

Visit the reported jugement:  R v NGK [2020] QDCPR 77 (PDF, 171.5 KB)