NSW Police Commissioner Grilled Over Handling of Christian Porter Investigation

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Mick Fuller has been grilled in Parliament about the force’s handling of the historical sexual assault allegation against Attorney General Christian Porter, with many concerned about the fact that the case was closed before police received all of the relevant information.

In Parliament, Mr Fuller made admitted that NSW police discontinued their investigations before receiving an extensive dossier which had been sent to Prime Minister Scott Morrison detailing historical sexual assault allegations against Mr Porter.

Rather than obtain and review those materials, the NSW Police Force instead relied on a summary email without attachments, before closing the case.

Failing to obtain formal statement

The central complaint against Mr Porter was contained in a letter by the alleged victim to the New South Wales Police Force, which detailed the alleged sexual assault against her.

Sadly, the woman took her own life three months later.

When questioned about why police did not take a formal statement from the complainant, Mr Fuller claimed that his officers could not travel to meet her in South Australia due to Covid-19 restrictions. He was quick to point out that investigators did speak with her, as well as her partner and family members, several times last year.

This claim that officers could not travel to investigate a serious criminal case and take central evidence – being a formal signed statement – has been heavily criticised.

The Commissioner also claimed that asking his South Australian counterparts to take a formal statement on behalf of NSW Police was ‘not routine’, although it has been pointed out that relying on other police agencies in this way has certainly occurred in many other cases.

Justice delayed is justice denied

As has been seen in so many times other cases, justice delayed is justice denied.

The complainant is reported to have informed New South in June 2020 that she no longer wanted to pursue the matter, just hours before taking her own life.

The New South Wales Police Force formally closed its investigation shortly after the matter was made public last month.

Historical complaints

The statements made by the Police Chief in Parliament highlight the hurdles faced by sexual assault complainants in the criminal justice system.

The alleged victim prepared a lengthy account of her claims for police, and police also received an 88-page document from one of her friends in July 2020, which is said to be authored by the alleged victim.

At no time did police contact Mr Porter or any other members of parliament about the allegations, because this is not ‘due process.’

Mr Fuller detailed to Parliament the admissible evidence that would have been required for the matter to proceed, admitting how difficult it is for police to prosecute sexual assault cases.

“The only possible evidence … which would have some forensic value on this case getting into the justice system is a signed statement from the victim which would be in such detail and her credibility was at such a high, that the DPP would allow the prosecution to continue,” Mr Fuller said.

He added it was ‘unlikely’ the case would have gone to trial even if the victim was still alive because “these are challenging matters, particularly when they’re historic.”

Statistics suggest that only 10 per cent of adult sexual assault cases actually proceed to court, and only 10 percent of those win at trial.

Given that the police investigations and prosecution can be particularly re-traumatising for victims, it’s easy to understand why so many don’t have the energy and stamina to pursue justice.

The public demands answers

In this particular case, pressure remains on the Federal Government to provide answers to the general public, via an independent inquiry.

James Hooke, an ex-boyfriend of the alleged victim has come forward in recent days stating that he has had “relevant discussions” with Mr Porter over a number of years. He has spoken with Police and has also offered to appear before any independent inquiry.

The Prime Minister continues to rule out the possibility of any such inquiry.

But Mr Porter’s denial of the allegation and the Prime Minister’s decision to stand by him don’t equate to any form of justice and nor do they put an end to the matter. Particularly in the light of the fact that Mr Porter has admitted that he hasn’t read the details of the allegations against him, and furthermore because this very damaging allegation now casts a long shadow over his position as Attorney General, the highest law officer in the land.

The Prime Minister’s failure to agree to investigate further is, in the eyes of many, a significant failure of leadership, because not only does it ignore the public’s demand for answers, it robs Mr Porter of a process which could clear his sullied reputation.

South Australian police have been given extra assistance from the Coroner to undertake their own investigation. Once the police have compiled their report, the Coroner may decide to conduct a coronial inquest into the woman’s death which may eventually provide answers if the report is made public.

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Sonia Hickey

Sonia Hickey is a freelance writer, magazine journalist, and owner of 'Woman with Words'. She has a strong interest in social justice and is a member of the Sydney Criminal Lawyers® content team. Sonia is the winner of the Mondaq Thought Leadership Awards, Spring 2022.

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