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Crime and Corruption Commission

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Crime and Corruption Commission


The Crime and Corruption Commission (CCC) has been prevalent in the news and media articles for some time now, particularly in the lead to the Commission of Inquiry held in relation to its structure, governing legislation and procedures, particularly as they related to the charging and prosecution of criminal offences.

It is possible that changes could be made to the CCC’s governing legislation in the future. However, it is valuable to be aware of the organisation’s existing powers, how they may affect those brought before the CCC and why it is paramount that you seek legal advice immediately if contacted by the CCC.

This article is targeted towards the CCC’S major crime function and answering questions commonly put to our team for those who find themselves subjected to a CCC major crime investigation.


The CCC – what is it?

The CCC is an independent statutory body established by the Crime and Corruption Act (the Act) to:

  • Combat and reduce the incidence of major crime;
  • Continuously improve the integrity of, and reduce the incidence of corruption in the public sector;
  • Administer Queensland’s proceeds of crime regime;
  • Oversee Queensland’s witness protection program.


What is “major crime”?

Major crime is defined by the Act as:

(a) criminal activity that involves an indictable offence punishable on conviction by a term of imprisonment not less than 14 years; or

(b) criminal paedophilia (meaning offences of a sexual nature committed in relation to children); or

(c) organised crime (meaning criminal activity that involves indictable offences punishable by not less than 7 years, involving two or more persons, substantial planning and organisation or systemic and continuing activity and a purpose to obtain profit, gain, power or influence); or

(d) terrorism; or

(e) something that is—

(i) preparatory to the commission of criminal paedophilia, organised crime or terrorism; or

(ii) undertaken to avoid detection of, or prosecution for, criminal paedophilia, organised crime or terrorism.

This can include a raft of offences such as drug trafficking, fraud charges or making, distributing or possessing child exploitation material.


How does the CCC aim to “combat and reduce” major crime?

The CCC uses extensive powers and specialist services to assist their law enforcement partners, in particular the Queensland Police Service in conducting investigations. These powers are not ordinarily available to the police in conducting investigations.

One such power is the power to conduct coercive hearings, requiring witnesses to attend those hearings in private and give evidence.

These hearings are often utilised to gain new information and evidence with respect to investigations that have not progressed as planned using usual police methods.

They are often used to investigate unsolved murders, offences against children and organised crime investigations involving drug trafficking, money laundering and crimes involving the use of weapons.


What is special about coercive hearings?

Unlike in standard investigations, witnesses are stripped of their right to silence and are compelled to answer questions put to them and to produce documents upon request. Refusing to answer questions on the basis of self-incrimination is not an excuse for refusing to answer a question.

The witness must answer all questions until excused.


What are the consequences if a witness refuses to answer questions put to them?

Refusing to answer a question, without a reasonable excuse, places the witness in contempt. The witness in this instance may then be detained and brought before the Supreme Court to be dealt with and must be punished by imprisonment.  Depending on the number of contempt offences alleged, the penalty can range from 10 years to life imprisonment.


What if the witness initially refuses to answer but changes their mind?

A witness may be brought back to the CCC should that witness decide to “purge” the contempt, in other words, decide to answer questions put to them by the investigating officers and can be discharged from serving the remainder of their sentence.


What if the witness is concerned that their answers may later be used against them?

In exchange for stripping a witness of their right to silence, if a witness gives evidence that does incriminate them in a criminal offence, it cannot be directly used against them in any criminal, civil or administrative proceeding. The evidence can be however used to assist the investigation and as the basis for requiring the witness to later give evidence in a court against another person.

The CCC has the power to restrict the use of privileged answers only if the witness claims the self-incrimination privilege in relation to the answer before answering a question. If claimed before answering, the answer is not admissible in evidence against the witness.

This privilege does not apply if the witness provides false evidence, in other words, commits perjury.


How does a witness know if they’re required to attend an investigative hearing?

The witness will be served with an attendance notice by a CCC officer, directing personal attendance until excused, at a hearing in relation to a criminal investigation. The notice must state the general nature of the matters about which the witness will be questioned.

The witness must attend the hearing as stipulated in the notice or face potential imprisonment of up to 5 years.


Can a witness discuss the hearing with third parties?

A witness is not permitted to discuss any aspect of the hearing, including the attendance notice served upon them with anyone other than a legal representative.


Why should a witness seek legal advice?

It is critical that a witness is aware of their rights and obligations if served with an attendance notice.

Given the covert nature of these proceedings and extensive powers afforded to the CCC in respect of major crime investigations, it can be particularly burdensome for a witness to navigate their way through this proceeding without specialist legal advice.


Our Lawyers Can Help

Our team at Potts Lawyers can assist witnesses by advising them of the process at a coercive hearing, when they may be able to claim privilege and ensuring the hearing is conducted in accordance with the law.

For more information please visit our crime and corruption commission page or contact us on (07) 5532 3133

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