Sexual Assault Charges Dropped Due to Unreliability of Complainant

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Downing Centre

The prosecution has withdrawn charges of sexual assault brought against a 34-year old man, after his criminal defence lawyers proposed to present evidence in court that the 29-year old female complainant had a tendency to seek ‘retribution’ against men she met on dating apps.

The defendant pleaded not guilty to three counts of sexual intercourse without consent, an offence punishable by up to 14 years in prison, and the trial was scheduled to commence in Downing Centre District Court today.

History of false complaints and abuse

However, the Office of the NSW Director of Public Prosecution (DPP) withdrew the charges after being presented with evidence undermining the complainant’s credibility.

The evidence included that the woman had claimed to be pregnant to a man she had met on the dating app Zoosk and demanded money for an abortion, when the man was sterile.

In another case, the woman sent a photoshopped image of her and a man in bed together, followed by half a dozen abusive messages, including the following:

“I wish I could make you suffer.”

“The way you treated me after… you’re f-ing heartless.”

“I fuck-ing hate you, you have made my life miserable”.

Tendency to lie

The accused man’s counsel, Margaret Cunneen SC, told the prosecution that the defence would seek to introduce “tendency evidence” to show the woman had a desire to seek retribution against men she met on dating apps who, she believed, did not treat her properly, including an intention to make them suffer.

This is unusual because section 293 of the Criminal Procedure Act 1986 (NSW) protects complainants by preventing lawyers from adducing evidence about their sexual history.

The section’s is intended is to ensure criminal trials are determined solely on facts, and not potentially ‘tainted’ by someone’s past behaviour.

The defence may have been able to circumvent the prohibition by adducing evidence which did not strictly relate to sexual history.

False allegations are damaging for genuine victims

Cases like this can make it more difficult for genuine victims to achieve justice.

False allegations also have the potential to ruin innocent lives – including an accused person’s relationships, reputation, mental health, careers and finances.

False complaints are made for a variety of  reasons – out of anger or vengeance, for financial interests, to bolster family law claims, to seek attention, as a cry for help, due to mental health issues (including Munchausen’s syndrome) – the list is endless.

In New South Wales, section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes it an offence to make an accusation intending for another person to be the subject of an investigation of an offence, knowing that the other person is innocent. The penalty is up to seven years’ imprisonment.

Section 315 prescribes a maximum penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment for anyone who hinders an investigation – including by maintaining false statements in relation to a criminal investigation.

People who have been falsely accused also have the option to seek damages through civil proceedings.

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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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