If you are facing a civil or criminal charge or charges, you may be wondering about the proceedings, and what rights you will have during those proceedings.
As criminal lawyers who have represented many people in court, one question we are asked a lot is whether Australia guarantees a right to a fair trial, and what this means.
We share more below.
What is a Fair Trial?
A fair trial is one that abides by the requirements of the law. According to the Queensland Law Handbook, what constitutes a “fair” trial will also dependant on the specific case facts, the community interest and the interests of the victim or aggrieved party.
Is There a Right To a Fair Trial In Australia?
(1) A person charged with a criminal offence or a party to a civil proceeding has the right to have the charge or proceeding decided by a competent, independent and impartial court or tribunal after a fair and public hearing.
(2) However, a court or tribunal may exclude members of media organisations, other persons or the general public from all or part of a hearing in the public interest or the interests of justice.
(3) All judgments or decisions made by a court or tribunal in a proceeding must be publicly available.
Scope of the Right To a Fair Trial
This right to a fair trial is available to all persons, whether they are a defendant in a criminal case, or a party to a civil case. It is also applicable to cases at all stages of proceedings, and in any court.
What is a Competent, Independent and Impartial court?
A competent, independent and impartial court is one that decides a case according to the facts and application of the law and follows the correct procedures. Decisions are not biased or affected by external factors.
In Queensland, courts operate independently; the doctrine of the separation of powers ensures this, and refers to the distinct separation of the three branches of Government – the legislative branch (makes the law), the executive branch (enforces the law), and the judicial branch (interprets the law).
What Are My Rights As Someone Facing Charges in a Criminal Trial?
In order to fulfil the requirements of a fair trial in a criminal case, there are some items that are specific to criminal cases. These are set out in section 22 of the Act.
Like all rights in the Act, the Queensland Human Rights Commission states that these can be limited where it is justified or reasonable “in a free and democratic society based on human dignity, equality and freedom”
These include that the person has a;
1) right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty, and
2) right to a number of minimum guarantees without discrimination. These, are that the person charged has a guarantee;
a) To be informed promptly and in detail of the nature and reason for the charge in a language or, if necessary, a type of communication the person speaks or understands;
(b) To have adequate time and facilities to prepare the person’s defence and to communicate with a lawyer or advisor chosen by the person;
(c) To be tried without unreasonable delay;
(d) To be tried in person, and to defend themselves personally or through legal assistance chosen by the person or, if eligible, through legal aid;
(e) To be told, if the person does not have legal assistance, about the right, if eligible, to legal aid; (f) to have legal aid provided if the interests of justice require it, without any costs payable by the person if the person is eligible for free legal aid under the Legal Aid Queensland Act 1997;
(g) To examine, or have examined, witnesses against the person;
(h) To obtain the attendance and examination of witnesses on the person’s behalf under the same conditions as witnesses for the prosecution;
(i) To have the free assistance of an interpreter if the person can not understand or speak English;
(j) To have the free assistance of specialised communication tools and technology, and assistants, if the person has communication or speech difficulties that require the assistance;
(k) Not to be compelled to testify against themselves or to confess guilt.
Section 32(4) of the Act also contains that a person charged with a criminal offence has a right to have a conviction and related sentence reviewed by a higher court.
Are You Facing Criminal Charges Or Have More Questions About What Constitutes A Fair Trial?
If you have been charged with a criminal offence, we advise seeking legal help immediately. Our team at Guest Lawyers offer expert, dedicated representation and specialise in all criminal law matters. We can assist with parole breaches, pleas of guilty and not guilty, and advocacy for trials. We can help ensure you have a fair trial, and guide you through the process. For legal advice and representation, do not hesitate to get in touch with us via our contact form or on (07) 3236 0266. Get in touch with our lawyers either via Guest Lawyers’ email or by calling (07) 3211 3007.