Australia: Will the fear of public scrutiny affect how our Queensland Government prosecutors proceed?

Goldsborough v Bentley [2014] QSC 141

In the recent case Goldsborough v Bentley, which involved a German tourist who tragically drowned at a nature park in North Queensland, the Queensland Supreme Court ordered the Regulator to tell the coroner why they did not recommend a prosecution.

How this will affect you

  • this decision could provide scope for a coroner to criticise, or make recommendations about the relevant prosecution guidelines and policies of Queensland Government departments
  • any such comment or recommendation, or simply the fear of any such comment or recommendation, might result in changes to the relevant policy or in how it is applied, with a real potential for an increase in prosecutions following a fatality, and
  • this decision also confirms, and perhaps extends, the broad scope of inquiry in a coronial inquest and the ability for coroners to make comments on peripheral matters.

Following the death, an investigation was conducted by the Office of Fair and Safe Work Queensland (OFSWQ) and a decision was ultimately made not to prosecute the company that managed the park as a tourist facility, or that company's directors.

A coronial inquest into the death commenced in late 2013 and was adjourned soon after, when the Investigating Officer from OFSWQ refused to answer a question posed by Counsel Assisting the Coroner about why a recommendation was made not to prosecute.

This issue was then escalated to the Supreme Court to decide whether it is within the scope of a coroner's powers under the Coroner's Act 2003 (Qld) (the Act), to investigate the reasoning of a decision not to prosecute.

On 26 June 2014, the Honourable Justice McMurdo handed down his decision, affirming that Coroner Jane Bentley may direct the Investigating Officer to answer the question.

The coronial inquest will recommence on 14 October 2014.


On 10 January 2011, a 19 year old German tourist was swimming in a waterhole at Granite Gorge Nature Park when she and her friend were sucked into an underwater cave system beneath massive granite boulders. The tourist subsequently drowned, her body having been recovered by police divers the following day, while her friend managed to locate a pocket of air at the roof of the cave, where she stayed for 15 minutes before managing to escape using a tree root that was sticking out of the water.

The OFSWQ Regional Manager (Investigating Officer) started his investigation on the day of the incident, and made a recommendation to his superior on 12 August 2011 that no prosecution be initiated. This decision was subsequently confirmed by the Director of Legal and Prosecution Services at the OFSWQ (Director), on 5 December 2011.

A coronial inquest began on 10 December 2013, but was adjourned on 12 December 2013, when Counsel Assisting the Coroner asked the Investigating Officer why he made a recommendation to the Director not to prosecute. At this point Counsel appearing for the OFSWQ objected and was granted leave to seek judicial review.

The decision

Justice McMurdo concluded that while the decision whether to prosecute "is unconnected with the cause of death or any other matter", it is a subject that has a connection to the death that is being investigated, as it is "something which... could be the subject of an appropriate comment by a coroner".

Justice McMurdo's decision confirms that a coroner may not only investigate the reasoning of a decision not to prosecute, but may also make any comment in relation to such a decision that is relevant to either the administration of justice or the prevention of similar deaths in the future. This is provided that the coroner does "not include in any comment... any statement that a person is or may be guilty of an offence".

Why did OFSWQ choose not to prosecute?

At this stage one can only speculate about the reasons why the OFSWQ chose not to prosecute. However, Justice McMurdo specifically acknowledged that there may be "some policy being applied by the agency which [is] having the consequence that for no good reason, persons [are] not being prosecuted".

This statement is likely to sound alarm bells for prosecutors and government departments, who presumably, do not want to find themselves public ally criticised for failing to prosecute for "no good reason".

Will this lead to more prosecutions?

While the Coroner cannot technically make any comment as to the guilt or liability of the company or its directors, it is possible that the Coroner may make adverse comments about the current prosecution policy of the OFSWQ and the decision not to prosecute. Such comments may lead to reconsideration by the OFSWQ of their decision not to prosecute the company or its directors, as a prosecution may be commenced within one year after a coronial report is made or an inquest ends.

Significantly, this decision will apply across the board to all prosecuting departments, not just the OFSWQ. It will be interesting to see whether other departments will start to reconsider their prosecution policies following a fatality, due to a fear of potential public criticism at a coronial inquest.

Could we perhaps see an increase in health & safety, environment, transport and other such prosecutions? We will know more when Coroner Jane Bentley publishes her findings and comments following the completion of the coronial inquest, which is set to resume on 14 October 2014 in the Cairns Magistrates Court.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Some comments from our readers…
“The articles are extremely timely and highly applicable”
“I often find critical information not available elsewhere”
“As in-house counsel, Mondaq’s service is of great value”

Mondaq Advice Centre (MACs)
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.