Updated on Nov 08, 2022 • 4 min read • 470 views • Copy Link
A person who is charged with criminal offences may contest the charge and rely on a legal defence such as self-defence or duress. An accused person may also rely on a factual defence such as an alibi. An alibi exists where a person was not at the scene of the crime and can adduce evidence that they were elsewhere. This article deals with alibis in Queensland.
What are alibis?
An alibi exists where an accused person was at a particular place at the time the offence was allegedly committed and therefore could not have committed the offence or would have been unlikely to have committed the offence.
Burden of proof
The accused does not have the burden of proving that they were not at the scene of the crime. The prosecution must prove that the accused was at the scene of the crime. In other words, the prosecution must disprove the alibi.
Notice of alibi
When a person is charged with an offence on indictment in Queensland (in other words, a charge that is to be finalised in the District Court or in the Supreme Court) and they intend to rely on an alibi, they must give notice to the prosecution of the particulars of the alibi (Criminal Code 1899, Section 590A).
This notice must include the names and addresses of any person who they intend to call to give evidence in support of the alibi unless those details cannot be obtained by taking reasonable steps.
The requirement to give notice of an alibi exists so that the prosecution has the opportunity to investigate the alibi and adduce evidence to rebut the evidence supporting the alibi.
Prescribed period for giving notice of an alibi
Notice of an alibi must be given within 14 days of the date a matter is committed for trial.
Failure to give notice of an alibi
If the defence in an indictable matter raises an alibi without having given notice of an alibi to the prosecution, the court may disallow the evidence, or it may require the matter to be adjourned so that the prosecution can investigate the alibi.
If the defence calls a person to give evidence in support of their alibi and the person’s details have not been provided to the prosecution, the evidence may be disallowed. In this situation, the court will consider whether the accused was aware of the person’s details and whether they took steps ascertain the person’s details and provide them to the prosecution.
Alibis in the Magistrates Court
There is no formal requirement to give notice of an alibi in the Magistrates Court or Children’s Court. However, as a matter of professional courtesy and good practice, the defence is generally expected to do so.
Importance of dates
Relying on an alibi requires an accused person and the witnesses they call in their defence to be absolutely certain of the date and time when events occurred. Disproving an alibi also requires the prosecution to be able to establish that the offence was committed at the precise date and time that has been specified in the charge.
In some cases, a person may be found guilty of an offence even where the date stated on the charge is incorrect because both parties agree about the surrounding circumstances of the offence. However, in a case where an alibi is being advanced as a matter of fairness to the accused, the prosecution must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the offence was committed at the exact date and time specified on the indictment.
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