Commonwealth of Australia v Helicopter Resources Pty Ltd [2020] HCA 16 (24 April 2020) (Kiefel CJ, Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nettle, Gordon and Edelman JJ)


Catchwords:


Criminal practice – Accusatorial system of criminal justice – Companion rule – Where subpoena issued for employee to attend to give evidence at coronial inquest into manner and cause of another employee’s death – Where employer and Commonwealth of Australia prosecuted for alleged failures to comply with duty to ensure worker health and safety – Where s 87(1)(b) of Evidence Act 2011 (ACT) relevantly entailed that representation by employee of party relating to matter within scope of employment taken as admission by that party – Whether invocation of investigative power to compel employee to give evidence about matter with respect to which employer stands charged amounts to compelling employer to give evidence contrary to rule that accused not required to assist Crown in proving its case.

High Court – Appellate jurisdiction – Practice – Extension of time – Where first respondent sought leave to file notice of contention out of time alleging that compulsion of its employee to give evidence at coronial inquest would constitute contempt of court in parallel criminal proceedings by creating real risk of interference with justice according to law – Where criminal proceedings concluded and first respondent acquitted of offences – Whether extension of time should be granted to resolve question of whether compulsory examination of potential witness other than accused can amount to contempt of court.

Words and phrases – “accusatorial system of criminal justice”, “admissions made with authority”, “attribution”, “companion rule”, “compulsory investigative powers”, “compulsory pre-trial examination”, “contempt of court”, “coronial inquest”, “extension of time”, “hypothetical circumstances”, “practical reality”, “real risk of improper interference with criminal proceedings”.