NSW sexual assault cases under review

Sexual assault cases scheduled to go to court in NSW are now under review, following criticism from a group of judges.
sexual assault case review

Sexual assault cases scheduled to go to court in NSW are now under review.

It comes after a group of judges criticised the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (ODPP) for taking cases to trial without enough evidence.

It’s the ODPP’s job to decide whether charges should be heard in court.

Here’s what you need to know.

Going to trial

If someone wants to launch legal action over a sexual assault in NSW, they must first report the incident to the police.

Police will then launch an investigation and collect any evidence before deciding if they will arrest a suspect.

After a person is charged, the ODPP takes over the next stage of the case from the police. Lawyers from the ODPP look through the evidence to determine if a judge and/or jury should hear the charge.

Before determining if a case should go to trial, NSW public prosecutors must consider several factors. These include the strength of the evidence and witnesses, and the likelihood of a trial reaching a conviction.

For a sexual assault charge to reach a guilty verdict, a case needs to be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt” in court. Evidence is analysed closely during trial.

Judges claims

Over the past few months, a group of NSW judges have suggested some rape cases have gone to trial without strong evidence.

In one case, a judge said the prosecutor’s case was “hopeless”. The judge also said the evidence was never likely to lead to a conviction.

Justice Robert Newlinds suggested ODPP lawyers had an “unwritten policy” to bring matters of sexual assault to trial without a “sensible and rational” basis.

One prosecutor admitted her sexual assault case was “not the strongest”. It prompted Judge Peter Whitford to question whether the case should have been brought to trial.

Whitford echoed Newlinds’ concern that matters being taken to trial without a reasonable prospect of conviction is a widespread issue.

Director of Public Prosecutions Sally Dowling has rejected suggestions her lawyers aren’t following proper guidelines. She denied any assault cases are going to trial on “insufficient evidence”.

Sexual assault case review

During a NSW parliamentary inquiry, Dowling said there would be an “audit” (review) of sexual assault cases currently set to go to trial.

The review will be carried out by senior prosecutors.

She said: “The suggestion that there are secret policies or opaque policies is completely preposterous”.

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