Co-operating With Police (Qld)
Sentencing in Queensland is governed by the Penalties and Sentencing Act 1992. The sentencing court must take into account the level of assistance given by an offender to police investigating an offence. Sections 13A and 13B of the Act cover co-operation with police in return to a reduced sentence. A sentence can be reduced by up to half if an offender has undertaken to co-operate with police, or has already co-operated.
Before sentencing, a party to the proceeding must notify the judge’s associate or the court clerk that the offender has undertaken to co-operate with police, and that written or oral submissions or evidence about this will be provided to the court.
After an offender is invited to address the court, the offender’s written undertaking to co-operate with police must be handed up to the court, and any party can hand up submissions about a reduction of sentence. If oral submissions or evidence is to be presented about the reduction in sentence, the court must be closed for this.
The penalty must be stated in open court, then the judge or magistrate must close the court to announce that the sentence is to be reduced. They must then seal by court order the written undertaking and a record of evidence and submissions made about the reduction of sentence. The judge or magistrate can make an order prohibiting publication of all or part of the proceeding or the name and address of any witness after considering:
- the safety of any person;
- the extent to which the detection of similar offences may be affected;
- the need to guarantee the confidentiality of information given by an informer.
These procedural requirements aim to protect the safety of offenders who have co-operated with police and to encourage such co-operation.
If an offender has already co-operated with police, the same procedure applies. However, instead of a written undertaking from the offender, an affidavit from police must be provided to the court. The affidavit must state the nature, extent and usefulness of the co-operation given by the offender. The co-operation must be deemed to have been “significant” to be considered as a factor in reducing a sentence.
R v TAS (2020)
In this case, a man (who cannot be named for legal reasons) was sentenced to 10 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to trafficking dangerous drugs with a serious organised crime circumstance of aggravation. Between 2014 and 2017 he had trafficked about 25-30kg of methamphetamine between Brisbane and Mackay for a drug syndicate.
Without the sentenced reduction applied under section 13A, TAS would have received a prison term of 18 years. Section 161S of the Act specifies that section 13A applies to an offender convicted of an offence committed with a serious organised crime circumstance of aggravation only if the offender co-operates in proceedings about a major criminal offence, and the co-operation will be of significant use.
In her sentencing remarks in open court, the sentencing judge accepted that TAS’s admissions to police “went significantly beyond the information which police had from their surveillance operations” and beyond information police had obtained from “very comprehensive statements” from a co-offender. Her Honour accepted TAS”s admissions entitled him to “special leniency”.
R v PBH (2019)
In this case, a man (who cannot be named for legal reasons) was sentenced to 6 years in prison after he pleaded guilty in the Supreme Court to trafficking dangerous drugs with a serious organised crime circumstance of aggravation.
Without the sentence reduction applied under section 13A for co-operating with police, PBH would have received a prison term of 18 years. As with the case of R v TAS, section 161S of the Act came into play.
R v Thompson (1994)
In this case, Thompson was convicted of more than 2000 property offences, which included the theft of more than $3.24 million in property. Police told the court that without his co-operation, Thompson would have been charged with fewer than 20 offences. Thompson also supplied information about other offenders which was of “great value”. His Supreme Court sentence of 20 years in prison was reduced to 12 years on appeal, with the sentencing judge stating:
“The result is a great reduction in the sentence which would have been appropriate but for the co-operation we have mentioned. The reason for the magnitude of the reduction is the corresponding magnitude of the offender’s co-operation, not only in voluntarily bringing to the attention of the police nearly all the offences of which he has been convicted, but because he has run the risks involved in providing highly valuable information about offenders other than himself.”
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