The NSW police were set to take a statement from the alleged victim of Christian Porter, but three days later, it was suddenly called off.
CW: This piece discusses sexual violence and suicide.
According to released documents, the South Australian police asked their colleagues in NSW to take a statement regarding the alleged sexual assault involving Christian Porter; one that the NSW police refused.
Additionally, it seems that they made this decision without speaking to the alleged victim.
MP David Shoebridge, who filed a motion to release the documents, said that the NSW police “made two separate decisions to delay taking a statement, neither of which appears to have had a valid basis”.
As Paul Karp of The Guardian noted, the documents “also show the NSW police rejected a request from Porter’s accuser to take her statement via Skype and alternatives were not pursued because the alleged victim seemed ‘resigned’ to Covid-19 interruptions to travel delaying it until September.”
As the documents state, in February 2020, the alleged victim was in Sydney, meeting with her legal representatives. At “short notice”, the NSW offered her to make a formal statement. She instead opted for the police to visit her at home, so she could have a support person with her.
According to the documents, on March 10, NSW detectives made an application to visit her in Adelaide.
Per the documents published by The Guardian, the application was supported by the co-ordinator of the child abuse and sex crimes squad who said that it “involves a very high-profile and a detailed statement is required…there are circumstances relating to this victim that in my view requires 2X investigators present,” he said.
On March 13, the application was rejected, as the deputy commissioner of investigations and counter-terrorism claimed there was “insufficient detail … to justify why this travel cannot be deferred in accordance with … restricting interstate travel to operational necessity”.
The alleged victim took her life in June of 2020.
“At the early stages of any investigation, police are the “gatekeepers” for decisions that might lead to a prosecution. The guidelines used by police prosecutors are straightforward: they decide whether the evidence is capable of leading to a successful conviction and whether it is in the public interest for a prosecution to proceed.
“They do not, and cannot, go on “fishing” expeditions. They cannot launch a prosecution hoping something will emerge down the track that might lead to the conviction of the accused.
“In this case, we can assume the police decided the fact the complainant was deceased (and could not give evidence) and that the alleged offence happened more than three decades ago provided too little evidence to go on. In their statement, the police used the term “admissible evidence”. By that, one can assume, they meant any hearsay evidence that was not capable of being corroborated could not be taken into account.”
Sarre also noted that “…it may seem to many that the idea of deciding not to proceed without questioning the alleged perpetrator was a little odd, but the discretion attached to pre-trial decision-making is broad.
“It is important to note that the inability of a complainant to give evidence for any reason (including death) is not the end of the matter. I know of no jurisdiction in Australia where a prosecution will be abandoned solely on the lack of a complainant’s testimony.
“That was not always the case. In days gone by, once a complainant withdrew his or her complaint, a prosecution was inevitably withdrawn.
“The rules of evidence have also been reformed to make it easier for prosecutors to lead at trial with evidence of the propensity of an accused to commit offences of a sexual nature. Nevertheless, the chances of a prosecution in a sexual offence case leading to a conviction remain slim.
“As criminologist Kathleen Daly pointed out a decade ago, of 100 complaints recorded by the police in Australia at that time, only 28% proceeded past the police to prosecution, 20% were finally prosecuted at trial, and only 11.5% resulted in convictions to any sexual offence. It would not be too much different now.”
In the time since the allegations came to light, Porter has launched a defamation case against the ABC and has been reshuffled out of the attorney general’s portfolio.
Despite the above, the South Australian coroner could consider that the alleged sexual assault could be part of an inquest into the woman’s death, but they’ve not yet made a decision.