What happens in a hearing

During a hearing, the court determines issues such as criminal responsibility and fitness for trial, and may remove mentally ill and intellectually disabled offenders from the criminal justice system into the mental health system.

The court will conduct an inquiry into the relationship between the defendant’s mental illness and the alleged offences to determine criminal responsibility.

This is not a trial.

What the court considers

The court may consider:

  • oral evidence from expert witnesses
  • the brief of evidence including a criminal history (provided by police or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions)
  • all medical reports relating to the matters to be decided in the court
  • written submissions from the parties
  • relevant material submitted by victims or concerned persons that is not part of the brief of evidence.

What the court decides

The Mental Health Court answers the following questions:

  • Was the alleged offender ‘of unsound mind’ at the time of the offence?
  • Is the alleged offender ‘unfit for trial’?
  • Is the unfitness for trial temporary or permanent?
  • If the charge is murder, was the alleged offender suffering from ‘diminished responsibility’ at the time of the offence?

The court ultimately decides whether the defendant is:

  • of unsound mind
  • of diminished responsibility (if the charge is murder)
  • temporarily or permanently unfit for trial.

Read more about court decisions and the definitions of these terms.

Attending hearings

Most hearings in the Mental Health Court are open to the public. However:

  • the court may order a hearing, or parts of it, to be closed to the public in the interests of justice
  • hearings involving young people (under the age of 17) are not open to the public
  • the appeal of a decision made by the Mental Health Review Tribunal is not open to the public unless the court makes an order allowing others to be present.

Publishing proceedings

You must not publish a report of the tribunal’s proceeding, or an appeal against the decision of the tribunal, unless you get permission from the tribunal or Mental Health Court.

The court will grant permission if publication is in the public interest, and the report doesn’t identify the patient, witnesses or anyone else involved in the proceedings.

For a reference in the Mental Health Court or Court of Appeal, you must not publish a report of a proceeding, or a decision on a proceeding, unless certain time periods have elapsed.

For example, if the decision:

  • results in the defendant being brought to trial, you can only publish the decision at the end of the criminal trial
  • does not result in the defendant being brought to trial, and there is no appeal, you can only publish the decision 28 days after it is made
  • is appealed to the Court of Appeal, further restrictions on publication apply, depending whether the Court of Appeal decides the defendant should be brought to trial.

You must not publish any information that might identify a person under 17 years who has been a party to any proceeding in the tribunal, Mental Health Court or Court of Appeal.

See ss. 523–530 of the Mental Health Court Act 2000 (Qld) for more information on confidentiality requirements.

You can be fined or imprisoned for up to two years if you publish a report or decision in breach of the legislation.

Being notified of hearing dates and decisions

If you’re a victim of violent crime, the victim liaison officers in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) keeps you informed about important hearing dates and decisions.

If you would like to be kept informed, give the ODPP your current contact details.