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Information about the different Commissions and Courts

If you have never appeared in a Court of law or in front of a Commission you might feel slightly anxious when you receive a summons to appear in Court or before a Commission.

In this article we will aim to provide you with information about the different Commissions and Courts, what to expect when summonsed and about your rights and obligations. Arming yourself with knowledge will make it much easier to navigate the system.

The Local Court of NSW

The Local Court is the lowest court in the state legal system but it is also the busiest court. It hears both civil and criminal matters. Most criminal matters commence in the Local Court and most of these cases are completed in this Court as well. This court also hears committal proceedings to determine if indictable offences are to be moved to the District or the Supreme Court.

Offences heard by the Local Courts

The most common offences are traffic offences, other common offences include:

  • Public Order offences
  • Acts intended to cause injury
  • Reckless or negligent acts endangering another person/s
  • Theft
  • Offences against justice procedures

Sentencing jurisdiction

The Local Court can impose a maximum sentence of two years imprisonment per offence, subject to a total maximum of five years. Other than imprisonment it can also impose fines, community service orders, intensive corrective orders and good behavior bonds. Whilst imprisonment is a possibility with many criminal convictions, the likelihood of you going to prison depends on the circumstances of your specific case.

Divisions of the Local Court include:

Children’s Court

This division deals with matters relating to the care and protection of children and young people. It also conducts criminal cases concerning children and young people.

Coronial jurisdiction

This division conducts inquests into violent or unnatural deaths, or a sudden death with an unknown cause, or if a person died under suspicious/unusual circumstances.

Industrial jurisdiction

This division exercises civil and criminal jurisdiction derived from a range of State and Commonwealth legislation

Mental Health

This division will review the need for continued detention of a person in a situation where the person was involuntarily admitted to a psychiatric hospital for treatment. It will also consider and approve the discharge of a person who is under a community treatment order.

The District Court of NSW

The District Court is the “middle” court in the state legal system. There are 19 District Courts in NSW with 68 judges. It deals with matters to finality and hears both trials and appeals.

The District Court deals with the majority of serious criminal offences, except for Murder and Treason.

A typical District Court trial matter will involve any of the following:

  • Offences against the person, including Dangerous Driving, Malicious wounding to inflict grievous bodily harm and Accessory before or after the fact to Murder.
  • Assaults, including Reckless wounding, Recklessly causing grievous bodily harm
  • Sexual Assaults, including Aggravated sexual or indecent assault
  • Offences relating to property, including Breaking and Entering, Armed Robberies and Robbery from a person and Extortion
  • Offences involving Fraud, normally exceeding $200,000.
  • Offences involving drugs, including supplying prohibited drugs, supplying large commercial quality and quantity of drugs, manufacturing prohibited drugs and importing drugs.

Will your case be heard by a Judge or Jury?

Most people accused of a crime in the District Court choose to plead guilty. In such cases their sentence hearing will be before a judge alone.

If you choose to plead not guilty, your matter will be placed on the trial list. The majority of trials are heard by a judge and a jury. In limited circumstances, for example if your matter involves complex or technical evidence that a jury might not be able to understand, you may be able to have your matter heard by a judge alone.

Appeals

The District Court will deal with appeals against the severity of a sentence imposed by a Magistrate, referred to as “Severity Appeals”.

It also deals with “Grounds Appeals”. This type of appeal typically attacks the grounds on which the Magistrate based his findings/decision to find you guilty of an offence.

The Consequences of having a criminal record

Having a criminal conviction recorded against you can have serious consequences for your future.

Many employers will run background checks on potential employees as part of the recruitment process. This might include a police check. A police check will show a criminal conviction recording against your name and it will provide details of the charge for which it was recorded. This might influence the employer’s decision on whether or not to employ you.

In certain professions a criminal conviction recorded against you may have an adverse affect on your ability to practice your profession. Any member of the legal profession must for example report any criminal conviction to the law society. The law society will then have to make a decision as to whether the lawyer may continue to practice law.

Many countries require visitors to apply for a visa before you can travel to that country. Most visa applications require you to disclose any criminal convictions. Depending on your conviction and the policy of that country your visa for overseas travel may be denied based on your criminal record.

Can you avoid a criminal record?

It might be possible if the Court is prepared to grant you a section 10 non-conviction order.

Do you need a lawyer?

Appearing in criminal court can be an overwhelming process. You may choose to represent yourself, but if you are unfamiliar with the Court system it would be wise to have a solicitor to represent you. The process can be daunting and the consequences of a conviction can be serious. Criminal lawyers are specialists in their field and appear in Local and District Courts on a regular basis. A Criminal lawyer is familiar with the process and will be able to guide you through the different steps of a criminal trial. They understand the possible consequences of a conviction and will fight for the best possible outcome to your case.

Besides the Local and District Courts there are a few special Courts.

Coroner’s Court

The Coroner has a role in investigating fires and explosions, but most often his/her role is to investigate the cause of death when a death occurred. This investigation can take different forms; most often it involves an inquest. Besides inquests, the Coroner has additional powers, if he or she believes it’s necessary, to do any of the following:

  • Conduct a private investigation into a death
  • Take possession of a body
  • Subpoena medical experts to give evidence at the inquest, or
  • Subpoena any other person with material knowledge about the death
  • The Coroner, or the Assistant Coroner, may order an autopsy, or an exhumation, if the death falls in the Coroner’s jurisdiction. A person with an interest in the deceased may object to an autopsy or an exhumation by applying to the Supreme Court of NSW to stop the autopsy or the exhumation.

What is an inquest?

An inquest is a type of public hearing. The main purpose of an inquest is to make a finding on the cause of death. The Coroner can make recommendations to prevent a similar tragedy, and he/she can recommend that a person/s be charged with a crime for causing the death, but the Coroner does not have the power to find anyone guilty of a crime, or to “sentence” anyone for causing the death.

Appearing before a Coroner can be stressful for different reasons. You might have been summonsed to tell the Coroner what you know about the death of a loved one, or you might be under suspicion of being involved in causing a death. Either way, it is important to seek legal advice before you attend the inquest; you might decide to take a lawyer with you to the hearing.

If the Coroner believes that a person can provide material evidence, he/she can subpoena that person to appear at an inquest. If you receive such a subpoena, you have to appear before the Coroner. If you fail to appear, the Coroner has the power to issue a warrant for your arrest.

What happens at the inquest?

An inquest is similar to court proceedings. The hearing is usually open to the public.

It will be conducted in a similar room and the Coroner will preside over the proceedings. The Coroner may, or may not be assisted by a jury. Anyone with an interest in the outcome of the inquest, including family members of the deceased, may be represented.

The Coroner will hear testimony from witnesses, and interested parties will have the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses to test the evidence. The Coroner may also ask questions. If the death was caused by a motor vehicle accident, and you were the driver, you may be asked about what speed you were traveling at, whether you had anything to drink, whether you were taking any drugs, or about anything else that might have contributed to the accident. You have to answer all the questions fully and truthfully. Failing to answer properly can lead to penalties, and even imprisonment of up to five years.

There is an exception. If your answers might implicate you in the commission of an offense, you do not have to answer the question. What are your options if the answer might implicate you? You can either refuse to answer the question, or you can apply for a certificate. Such a certificate will ensure that the evidence you give, cannot later be used against you in a NSW court. Without a certificate anything you say, may be used against you in court. If you are concerned that you may incriminate yourself, it is better to have a lawyer present at the inquest. Your lawyer can object to certain questions and argue the law on your behalf.

If you have not been summonsed to appear at an inquest, but you feel that the Coroner should hear your evidence, you can apply in writing to the Coroner to appear at the hearing.

Legal advice

If you have any questions or doubts about appearing before the Coroner’s Court, contact a lawyer and discuss your situation with him or her.

Drug Court

The Drug Court is a specialist court for adult offenders with a drug dependency. It has three main objectives.

Diverting eligible people into treatment programs for a minimum of 12 months to help them to overcome their drug dependency

Assisting drug dependent people with re-integration into society
Reducing the need for drug dependent people to take to criminal activity to support their drug dependencies

Why choose the Drug Court?

If you are serious about addressing your drug dependency, the Drug Court offers significant benefits. Be warned though; it is not an easy way out. You have to agree to serious conditions and the requirements are very onerous.

What are the benefits?

You will stay out of prison to participate in a drug program.
Almost 50% of participants complete the program with a non-jail sentence. The alternative could be an average 14 month prison sentence.
You can improve your general health and future quality of life
It can help you to get out of the drug-related crime cycle and reduce your changes of reoffending and appearing in court on criminal charges.

Who is eligible for the Drug Court Program?

Let’s start by stating who is not eligible.

If you are under 18 years old and/or is charged with an offence before the Children’s Court.
If you are charged with a sexual offence, or a strictly indictable offence of supplying prohibited drugs, or with an offence involving violence.
If you have a mental condition that could restrict or completely prevent you from taking part in a program, you may still be referred to the Drug Court.  The court will make an assessment on your capability to attend a program if properly medicated, and may find that you are not capable of participating in a program.

To be eligible you must:

  • Be willing to participate
  • Indicate that you will plead guilty to the offence
  • Be drug dependent (not including alcohol, or prescribed medication)
  • Be facing a full-time prison sentence if convicted
  • Have a usual place of residence in one of the following areas: Auburn; Bankstown; Baulkham Hills; Blacktown; Campbelltown; Fairfield; Hawkesbury; Holroyd; Liverpool; Parramatta; Penrith, or the Hills Shire.
  • Be appearing in one of the following Local or District Courts: Bankstown; Blacktown; Burwood; Campbelltown; Fairfield; Liverpool; Parramatta; Penrith; Richmond; Ryde; and Windsor.

Take note: Meeting these eligibility criteria does not guarantee you a position in the program.  The programs are usually over subscribed and you might be placed in a weekly selection process. The Court also has a discretion to exclude a person from the program. If you are not placed in the program, your case will be dealt with as if you never applied to be referred to the Drug Court.

What happens if you are placed in the program?

Once the Court decides that you are eligible and you are placed in the program, you can expect the following.

Detoxification

You will be taken into custody, even if you have been granted bail, for about two weeks of assessments and detoxification. During this time the requirements of the program will be further explained to you and you will receive a copy with details of all the conditions of the program. Your Treatment and Case Plan will also be drawn up in this time.

Sentencing

Once your plan is finalized you will be taken back to the Drug Court to receive your initial sentence for the charges that were referred to the Drug Court. This initial sentence will be suspended once you enter the Treatment and Case Plan.

Participating in the program

Your treatment plan and options will be based on your specific needs. Your treatment can be conducted in the community or in a residential rehabilitation facility and includes abstinence, methadone and buprenorphine programs. The program will include:

  • Evidence-based drug treatment
  • Regular testing for drug use
  • Social support
  • Development of life skills
  • Ongoing psychiatric treatment
  • Regular reports to the Drug Court on your participation and progress

Phases of the Program

The program is divided into 3 phases.

The Initiation Phase

The first requirement is that you reduce your drug use. You are expected to stabilize your general health and refrain from criminal activity. You will be required to submit to drug testing at least three times a week and you have to report to the Drug Court once a week.

The Consolidation Phase

You are expected to remain drug and crime free and develop life and employment skills. In this phase you will be tested for drugs twice a week and have to report to the Drug Court every two weeks.

The Reintegration Phase

In this phase you are expected to start looking for employment, or at least be ready for employment, and show financial responsibility. You will be tested for drugs twice weekly and you need to appear in Drug Court to report back once a month.

What happens at the end of the program?

Your participation in the program may come to an end because you successfully completed the program, or you requested to exit early. The Court may also end your participation if it decides that you are unlikely to make any further progress in the program, or your behavior is such that the Court decides that continued participation in the program poses an unacceptable risk to society that you will reoffend.

Regardless of the reason, at the end of the program, you will appear back in Drug Court for the court to consider your initial sentence. The Court cannot increase your initial sentence. If you successfully completed the program and complied substantially with the program, the court will usually order a non-custodial sentence, but it is not guaranteed.

When considering your sentence the Court will look at the following:

  • The extent of your participation in the program
  • Any sanctions imposed on you during the program
  • Time spent in custody during the program, if any.

Legal assistance

If you feel that you are eligible for the Drug Court Program, or you have a loved one that might be eligible, discuss your situation with a lawyer. This might be the opportunity that you need to return to a normal, happy and healthy life free of drugs and crime.

Investigation Commissions

There are various Commissions conducting investigations and inquiries in the Australian legal system. Each has its own role and function. In the following section we will look at each Commission; what they investigate, the hearing process, the powers they have and the consequences for non-compliance with the rules relating to each commission.

NSW Crime Commission

The NSW Crimes Commission is NSW’s criminal intelligence agency and they investigate serious crimes, like drug trafficking, and deal with asset seizure and forfeiture.

If you receive a summons to attend, you must attend and stay present, even on days where you are not required to testify, unless you are specifically excused. Failing to attend on such days can lead to a fine of $1,100 and/or a term of 6 months imprisonment.

Section 18B of the NSW Crime Commission Act 1985 states clearly that you must answer all questions put to you, even if your answer will incriminate you. You also need to produce all documents requested from you. Such self-incriminating evidence will not be admissible against you in any civil or criminal proceedings (sec 18B(2)), but only if you object to giving an answer or to producing a document. Such evidence may however be used against you in any proceedings for contempt under this Act. This is very important to remember; if you don’t object, for whatever reason, ignorance or neglect, the evidence may be used against you.

The rule on self-incriminating evidence applies to all Commissions.

Take note: You do not necessarily have to object to each individual question, you can object to a class of questions or documents/information. The presiding officer then may declare a class of answers/information as having been given under objection. A good lawyer will be of great assistance in such situations.

The NSW Crime Commission can only investigate matters. They will send their findings to the DPP, who will decide whether or not to prosecute on behalf of the State. Since the Commission makes no findings, there is no appeal process.

For more information on what happens at a hearing/investigation, self-incrimination and legal assistance, please see the section below.

Australian Crime Commission

The Australian Crime Commission is the national criminal intelligence agency and its main function is to investigate serious and organised crime in Australia.

The Commission cannot prosecute anyone. They investigate and provide a record of the investigation, including all documents, to the Attorney General or the police. The decision to prosecute lies with the Attorney General. Since the commission makes no findings, there is no appeal process available.

For more information on what happens at a hearing/investigation, self-incrimination and legal assistance, please see the section below.

Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC)

The main functions of the ICAC is to investigate and expose corruption in the NSW public sector, to actively prevent and minimize corruption and to educate the NSW community and public sector about the effects of corruption. The Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 determines the scope of the powers of the ICAC and it can only perform functions permitted by the Act.

The aim is to improve the integrity of the NSW public sector and to protect the public interest against breaches of public trust. In order to achieve these aims the ICAC is legally required to do the following (within the framework provided for in the Act):

  • Investigate any allegation or circumstances that (in the opinion of the ICAC) point to corrupt conduct, or that implies that the conduct is likely to allow or encourage corruption in the public sector. The public sector includes state government agencies, local government authorities, members of Parliament and judges/magistrates.  It does not, however, investigate police corruption. See the section on the Police Integrity Commission.
  • Investigate all matters referred to it by both houses of the NSW Parliament.
  • Publish reports on matters investigated or referred to it.

Take note: The ICAC cannot deal with individual complaints and it cannot investigate public sector matters of other states where there is no connection to the NSW public sector or NSW public officials.

Defining “corrupt conduct” is not always easy, but it can be described as:

  • Any conduct by a public official, or a former public official, that involves a breach of public trust.
  • Any conduct by a public official, or a former public official, that involves the misuse of information obtained in the course of his/her official duties, regardless of whether it is for personal benefit or for someone else’s benefit.
  • Misconduct such as election fraud, theft, bribery, blackmail, tax evasion, illegal gambling or drug dealings, forgery, treason or violence that could negatively affect the exercise of official functions by any public official/s.
  • Any conduct that affects, or could negatively affect, the impartial and honest exercise of official functions by public officials or authorities.
  • Any conduct by a public official that constitutes dishonest or impartial performance of his/her official duties.

Take note: All of the above conduct will only amount to corrupt conduct if it constitutes:

  • A criminal offence, or
  • A disciplinary offence, or
  • Reasonable grounds for dismissal of the public official, or
  • If it involves a Minister or a Member of Parliament, it must amount to a substantial breach of the relevant code of conduct.

What can the ICAC do to conduct an investigation?

The ICAC has wide powers to gather information; they are allowed to:

Compel public officials and authorities to provide information
Compel the production of documents
Enter properties occupied by public authorities/officials to inspect and copy documents
Obtain search warrants for such properties
Intercept telephone calls and use other surveillance devices
Compel witnesses to answer questions at compulsory private or public inquiries

If you fail or refuse to answer questions you may be held in contempt. The Commissioner may send a “contempt of the Commission certificate” to the Supreme Court setting out the facts of your alleged contempt. If found guilty, you may be punished with a fine or imprisonment. See the section on penalties below. If you can show that you had a valid reasonable excuse for failing to answer, you may not be punished.

Giving false information can also lead to serious penalties. See below.

For more information on what happens at a hearing/investigation, self-incrimination and legal assistance, please see the section below.

A Royal Commission

A Royal Commission is a public inquiry ordered by the Governor-General to inquire and report on controversial issues of public importance, such as peace, order and good governance of the Commonwealth. NSW has it’s own Royal Commissions Act 1923 and may conduct their own public inquiries. The general rules are similar to those for the Commonwealth Royal Commissions.

The Governor-General will issue such a public inquiry by a Letters Patent, specifying the specific subject matter of the inquiry. The Commission has wide powers to gather information.

The findings of a Royal Commission do not have any legal consequences, but they can make policy recommendations to the Government to amend legislation. Often criminal proceedings will follow from the Commission’s findings.

Failing to attend or answer questions, or providing misleading information lead to penalties similar to other Commissions. See below. In addition the following conduct constitutes interfering with witnesses and is punishable as follows:

  • Bribing a witness to give false testimony or to withhold evidence
  • Penalty: 5 years imprisonment
  • Making a false representation to a witness with the intention of affecting his/her evidence
  • Penalty: 2 years imprisonment
  • Preventing a witness from appearing at the Commission
  • Penalty: 1 year imprisonment
  • Causing harm to a person who appeared as a witness, or who gave evidence/documents to the Commission
  • Penalty: $1000 or 1 year imprisonment
  • Dismissing an employee for appearing as a witness
  • Penalty: $1000 or 1 year imprisonment

If you intentionally insult or disturb, or interrupt proceedings of a Royal Commission, or you use insulting language towards a Royal Commission, or you write or say anything false or defamatory about a Royal Commission, you can be held in contempt of the Commission and be punished to $200 or 3 months imprisonment.

Examples of past Australian Royal Commission include:

Royal Commission into HIH Insurance

An investigation into the collapse of the then second largest Australian insurance company, HIH Insurance.

The “Cole Inquiry”

An investigation into whether conduct by certain Australian companies relating to the United Nations Oil-for-Food Program breached any Federal, State or Territory laws.

The Royal Commission into Drug Trafficking (Woodward Royal Commission) is an example of a NSW Royal Commission. It investigated drug trafficking in NSW, focusing on links between the NSW Police and the Mafia, and the disappearance of Donald Mackay, an anti-marijuana activist.

For more information on what happens at a hearing/investigation, self-incrimination and legal assistance, please see the section below.

Police Integrity Commission

This Commission operates independently of the Police Force. Its main function is to detect, investigate and prevent misconduct by members of the NSW Police Force. This includes conduct by police officers and administrative officers. It is also responsible to look at misconduct by officers of the NSW Crime Commission. Investigations can focus on serious police misconduct relating to bribery, corruption and any other criminal activity by police officials. It will usually investigate claims of misconduct that involves significant public interest.

Even before a hearing is held, the Police Integrity Commission has wide powers to gather information for their investigation.

They can enter and search a public authority’s premises, which mean they can enter any police station, look at police reports, or any other documents, and make copies of such documents/reports.

They can also apply to the Supreme Court for an injunction to limit the duties/powers of a police officer. The aim would be to stop the alleged misconduct until the Commission completed its investigation and can make a finding on the allegation.

All of this can happen with or without a hearing. Any information obtained during searches or with the aid of injunctions can then be used to assist in a future investigation/hearing.

A hearing of the Police Integrity Commission can be held in private, or it can be public. Sometimes it can be partly public and partly private. The Commissioner will decide whether it is private or public after considering, amongst other things, the public interest in the outcome of the hearing.

The protection against self-incrimination as discussed elsewhere, applies to these hearings as well. Such evidence may in these cases be used to make an order to remove a police officer from his position, or to reduce his/her seniority, rank or salary.

The Police Integrity Commission is not a Court; they do not make any final decisions. The findings of their investigations and recommendations are past on to Parliament. The State can use the recommendations to decide whether to prosecute or not.

Can anyone lodge a complaint with the Commission?

Yes, you can. You can even do so anonymously. The Commission will not necessarily investigate all complaints; they will focus on ones where the public interest is at stake. If they decide not to investigate your complaint, you will be notified and another course of action will be suggested to you.

For more information on attendance at a hearing, what happens at the hearing and penalties for non-compliance please see the section below.

Appearing at a Commission hearing/investigation

The structure of the hearings at each of these Commissions might be slightly different, but some general principles/rules apply to all the Commissions. To make the process of appearing less daunting, you need to know and understand the following:

You have to attend the hearing/investigation

All of these commissions mentioned above can summon you to appear and give evidence in their investigations; if summonsed, you have to appear. They may issue a warrant for your arrest if you refuse to appear. Once arrested on such a warrant, the Federal or Supreme Court judge will most likely refuse bail to ensure that you appear in front of the Commission. Your lawyer can assist you to propose certain conditions that might convince the Court to release you on bail. The judge will impose such conditions that he or she deems necessary to ensure that you will appear in front of the Commission. Conditions can include an amount of money, as surety, and reporting to your local police on certain days.

If however you are arrested for failing to appear before the ICAC or the Police Integrity Commission, you will be brought in front of that Commission immediately after arrest and whilst still in custody. You will be kept in custody until the Commissioner orders your release.

Each Commission has its own set of penalties for failing to appear as a witness at that Commission.

Currently the penalties are as follows:

  • Royal Commission: $1000 fine or 6 months imprisonment
  • Australian Crime Commission: $22,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment
  • New South Wales Crime Commission: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment
  • Independent Commission Against Corruption: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment
  • Police Integrity Commission: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment

What happens at the hearing/examination?

You will be asked to take the oath or affirmation to tell the truth.

The examiner will examine and cross-examine you on any issue he or she believes is relevant to the investigation. The duration of the hearing/examination will depend on the complexity of the issue being investigated. You will also have the opportunity to examine and cross-examine witnesses if you are the subject of the investigation by the Commission.

You have to answer all the questions asked truthfully and provide all the documents requested.

The only possible exception is at the Royal Commission or the Police Integrity Commission, where you might have a defence if you can show that the requested document is not relevant to the inquiry.

In all other cases if you don’t answer questions or fail to hand over documents you are in contempt and could face penalties. The penalty depends on the Commission.

Royal Commission: $1,000 fine or 6 months imprisonment
Australian Crime Commission: $22,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment
New South Wales Crime Commission: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment
ICAC: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment
Police Integrity Commission: $2,200 fine and/or 2 years imprisonment

Providing misleading evidence, or lying to the Commission is also an offence and, depending on the Commission, you could face any of the following penalties.

Royal Commission: $20,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment
Australian Crime Commission: $22,000 fine or 5 years imprisonment
New South Wales Crime Commission: $5,500 fine and/or 5 years imprisonment
ICAC: $22,000 fine and/or 5 years imprisonment
Police Integrity Commission: $2,200 fine and/or 6 months imprisonment

Having to answer all questions truthfully and providing all documents requested apply even if the information is self-incriminating. As explained in the section above on the NSW Crime Commission it is important to note that if an objection was raised to providing self-incriminating evidence, the incriminating information may only be used in that current Commission hearing/investigation, or in proceedings relating to contempt of that Commission.

Take note: The information cannot be used against you in a subsequent civil or criminal case against you, but it can be used by the authorities to find other evidence that can strengthen the prosecution’s case against you. Let’s explain it as follows: You are asked if you know where the murder weapon is. You object by informing the Commission that your answer might be self-incriminating. Now your answer cannot be used against you in a future criminal case, but the police can use your answer to find the murder weapon. If they then find your DNA on the weapon, that DNA evidence and the weapon can be used against you.

You are not allowed to share any evidence provided to any of the Commissions.

You may not publish any witness answers, documents, or any other evidence that came to light at a  Commission investigation, hearing or inquiry. This includes any evidence that could identify a witness or their location or could indicate that a person was a witness at a hearing. Publishing any such evidence could lead to serious penalties.

Royal Commission: $2000 fine or one year imprisonment
Australian Crime Commission: $2,200 fine and/or one year imprisonment
New South Wales Crime Commission: $5,500 fine and/or one year imprisonment
ICAC: $2,200 fine and/or three months imprisonment
Police Integrity Commission: $5,500 fine and/or one year imprisonment

Do you need a lawyer when appearing at a Commission?

Yes, definitely. You have the right to have your lawyer present at all the Commissions. This applies whether you are being investigated or whether you are appearing as a witness. It is very important to be represented by a lawyer at these hearings, unlike judges or Magistrates who are independent, the persons asking the questions at these hearings are usually the ones making the final decisions as well. They are not independent from the investigation and are very keen to obtain evidence from you to assist with their investigation. They will ask probing questions which you are obligated to answer.

An experienced lawyer will know how to protect your rights and interests at these hearings. They will know when to object against misleading questions and be sure to object if your answer could be self-incriminating, to ensure that the information cannot be used against you later in court. They will also protect you from being bombarded by the examiner.

Disclaimer : This article is just a summary of the subject matter being discussed and should not be regarded as a comprehensive legal advice for you to defend yourself alone. If you are charged with criminal offences, it is recommended that you seek legal assistance from criminal lawyers.

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