This article originally appeared in Queensland Bowler magazine, December 2018 edition
It is not uncommon for clubs or their staff to be approached by Office of Liquor and Gaming Regulation (OLGR) inspectors asking for a statement or interview to assess compliance with liquor and gaming legislation. In these circumstances, it is important to know your obligations and rights so that any interview (whether planned or not) can progress smoothly.
As a general rule, clubs should ensure that for any notable incident, a detailed statement is kept by those directly involved. The statement should be written in isolation by the person giving the statement and should be done so as soon as possible after the event.
The detail in these notes will be important in order for the club to best protect its own interests should the incident be taken any further by the regulator and/or the police. The same will apply for any interviews which have been recorded. The interviewee should ensure that a complete copy of the record of interview is obtained.
The Liquor Act 1992 (Qld) (Liquor Act) and the Gaming Machine Act 1991 (Qld) (Gaming Act) outline circumstances in which investigators are able to conduct interviews or take statements at licensed premises.
For the purposes of performing a function under either Act, inspectors can require individuals to state their name, address and age and, if necessary, provide evidence of these particulars. If an inspector believes on reasonable grounds that a person may be able to provide information relevant to the administration or enforcement of either Act, the inspector can require that person to answer a question which is relevant, or, under the Gaming Act, require the person to attend an interview at a specified time and place.
A person being interviewed must not, without reasonable excuse, fail to answer questions asked by an OLGR regulator. One such reasonable excuse is if the person could incriminate themselves by answering that question.
Without reasonable excuse, failing to answer interview questions is an offence under the Liquor Act. Currently, the maximum penalty for this offence is 100 penalty units or $13,055. Similar provisions also appear in other Acts regulated by the OLGR.
A club or staff member being interviewed has the right to have a legal representative and/or support person attend their interview. A legal representative can provide legal advice and support to the person being interviewed, and a support person can support the person being interviewed but must not answer questions on behalf of the interviewee. The details of the legal representative and/or support person should be provided to the OLGR investigator prior to the interview.
There are also specific provisions which deal with obstruction of inspectors. Obstruction includes assaulting, abusing, hindering, resisting and intimidating; it also includes preventing a person from appearing before, being questioned by, or supplying information to, an inspector.
In relation to witnesses to an event, there are no clear provisions in the Act which place obligations on the club in this regard. However, as pointed out, it is important that clubs are seen to cooperate with the regulator and/or the police while protecting their own interests. Accordingly, detailed notes of any incident and statements from any witnesses should be kept on record by the club, together with incident registers, as the value of these statements may not become apparent until disciplinary action is taken months or even years after the event.
We recommend that clubs have a dedicated and experienced person or persons on hand to deal with OLGR inspectors or police should they come to the premises. This will allow the club to cooperate with the relevant authorities while also ensuring that its own interests are protected.
If you have any queries in relation to this issue please get in contact with us.