As we head into 2022, clubs prepare for what the new year may bring, including the possibility of an Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) investigation that could involve investigating the club's commitment to ensuring patrons entering their venue are properly vaccinated and checked in. This article highlights what to expect should your clubs be investigated by the OLGR.
Under the Liquor Act 1992 (Qld) (Liquor Act) and the Gaming Machine Act 1991 (Qld) (Gaming Act) the OLGR has various powers to assess whether clubs have complied with Queensland's liquor and gaming legislation. One of these powers allows for the OLGR to conduct an interview with club staff and its representatives. This article discusses what you are obliged to do, and what your rights are when approached by the OLGR to conduct a compliance investigation interview.
Often an incident that is reported to Queensland Police will also attract the attention of the OLGR. Firstly, where any notable incident occurs, it is important that clubs record and maintain a detailed statement from those staff and persons directly involved as soon as practicable. This helps ensure that the club's interests are best protected and that you are able to cooperate should an investigation be taken further.
Where the OLGR does seek to investigate an incident, the investigator may contact relevant persons to set a mutually convenient time and place to conduct an interview. The person being interviewed has the right to have a support person or legal representative present during the interview, and the OLGR must allow for reasonable time for the relevant person to make arrangements for this to occur. Where a support person attends the interview, they must not answer questions on behalf of the interviewee.
When conducting an investigation OLGR inspectors may require the person to state their name, address and age, along with evidence to confirm the same, such as producing identification.
During the interview, the interviewee must answer all questions that the investigator asks provided that the investigator reasonably believes that person may be able to provide information relevant to the enforcement of the Liquor and Gaming Acts. The only exception to this under the Liquor and Gaming Acts is where the interviewee has a 'reasonable excuse', such as if the interviewee would incriminate themselves by answering the question. The maximum penalty for failing to answer a question is $13,785 under the Liquor Act, or $27,570 under the Gaming Act (as at 1 July 2021).
It is important for an interviewee to only answer with information that they have direct knowledge of and to avoid recounting information that they have heard from others. Answers should also be kept short and concise, and interviewees should avoid long rambling responses.
With the requirement for licensed venues to strictly adhere to governmental health directions in a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, it has increased the scope of questioning an investigator may ask of an interviewee.
As an example, say OLGR is investigating an incident that involves a failure by the venue to ensure that patrons entering their venue are vaccinated and checked in. The Public Health Act 2005 (Qld) (PHA) provides investigative powers for "emergency officers" (including OLGR officers) to ask questions that they believe are reasonably necessary to respond to a declared public health emergency (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) unless the person has a reasonable excuse. However, unlike the Liquor Act, it is not a reasonable excuse to fail to answer a question on the grounds that the answer may incriminate the interviewee. Of course, a person can only answer a question that they know the answer to.
To ensure that possible risk to your club is minimised, we strongly recommend that an appropriate club representative, or legal representative, is present during any OLGR interview. Should you have any queries in relation to the OLGR investigation process, please contact me on 07 3224 0353.
Article written by Matthew Bradford (Partner)
"The content of this publication is for reference purposes only. It is current at the date of publication. This content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. Legal advice about your specific circumstances should always be obtained before taking any action based on this publication."