A former police worker has been sentenced to a minimum of two years behind bars after she pleaded guilty to falsely accusing her ex-partner of sexual assault.
28-year old Sarah-Jane Parkinson entered pleas in November last year to two counts of making a false accusation to police and two of public mischief, after claiming to have been raped by her former partner during their two year relationship and a year after the relationship thereafter.
She was sentenced earlier this month in the ACT Magistrates Court.
Ms Parkinson and her former partner, who had been a prison guard, commenced a relationship in 2011. They bought a house together and were engaged within two years.
But in 2013, the relationship soured and the man decided to leave. A property dispute ensued regarding the division of the couple’s home.
Staging a crime
In 2014, Parkinson sent her new partner – a serving NSW police officer – a blank text message which was understood by both as their call of distress.
Police attended the woman’s home to find her groaning on the kitchen floor with her jeans undone and complaining about stomach pain.
She immediately implicated her former partner but claimed to have little memory of the details of the incident.
She also told police that her ex had been violent throughout their two year relationship, and had on one occasion raped her when they were together.
Her claims led to the man being arrested, charged with sexual assault offences and refused bail at the police station, and later in court.
The man was remanded in custody and an apprehended violence order was taken out against him.
The refusal of bail was in spite of the man’s family providing statements they had been with him during the time of the alleged assault.
Forensic analysis over the ensuing weeks found no evidence of the defendant’s DNA on anything from the alleged crime scene, despite the complainant telling police she was violently sexually assaulted on a blanket.
The woman provided police with a number of statements after her initial complaint, giving additional details of the alleged incident and the abusive relationship. Those statements could not be reconciled with other evidence.
The woman even made an unsubstantiated claim that members of her former partner’s family had tried to rob her, providing police with a steak knife which she claimed was brought to her home. However, the knife was found to have matched one that was missing from a set at Ms Parkinson’s home.
Investigations also found the woman had a history of making baseless assault claims against men.
Unfortunately for the defendant, none of those investigations were undertaken before police decided to arrest and charge him.
In fact, the charges were only withdrawn after the defendant’s lawyers subpoenaed police for internal documents which called into question the integrity of the investigation.
The complainant becomes the defendant
The pressure led to the charges being withdrawn and fresh charges being brought against Ms Parkinson for making the false complaint.
Ms Parkinson initially denied the allegations against her, pleading not guilty.
However, she changed her pleas in the lead-up to her five-day defended hearing.
Ms Parkinson’s current partner is currently under investigation for allegedly falsely corroborating parts of her story.
The sentencing proceedings
During the sentencing hearing earlier this month, the victim described how the incident had taken him to the brink of suicide.
“There were times when I considered ending it all”, he told Presiding Magistrate Beth Campbell.
He related to the court how he cried in disbelief throughout his period behind bars and had never felt more “alone or helpless”.
He explained his constant fear of being murdered if the inmates ever discovered he had been a prison guard, saying “I had to keep coming up with backstories”.
His mother sobbed as she read from her victim impact statement, describing how the financial and emotional stress caused the breakdown of her 36-year marriage with the victim’s father.
She described how the former couple re-mortgaged their home to pay hefty legal bills, and how the trauma of the experience has led her to keep detailed diaries and CCTV footage of the family’s movements.
She was understandably scathing of the investigation and the legal system’s presumption that her son was guilty based solely on a complaint from a woman with a history of baseless complaints against men.
The victim’s father described the battle to prove his son’s innocence as the “fight for their lives”, accusing police of being a “gullible and a willing accessory” to false claims.
He said he lay awake each night expecting a call to inform him that his son had been killed or taken his own life.
He told the court that the experience “very nearly resulted in my suicide”.
He described organising funeral cover for his son.
Magistrate Campbell noted the lack of remorse shown by the defendant throughout the proceedings, including her decision not to apologise to the victim in her pre-sentence report.
Her Honour sentenced the offender to a full term of three years and one month in prison, with a non-parole period of two years.
Ms Parkinson has 28 days to appeal the severity of the sentence.
Making a false accusation in NSW
Section 314 of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW) makes it an offence punishable by up to seven years’ imprisonment for a person 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.
If the complainant testified in court or swore a statement under oath, they may be prosecuted for the offence of perjury under section 327 of the Act, which carries a maximum penalty of 10 years’ imprisonment.
A person is guilty of perjury if it is proven they:
- Made a false statement under oath,
- It was made in, or in connection with, judicial proceedings,
- It concerned a matter which was material to those proceedings, and
- The maker knew the statement was false or did not believe it was true at the time it was made.
The maximum penalty for perjury increases to 14 years where the complainant committed the act with the intention to procure the conviction or acquittal of a person for a ‘serious indictable offence’ – which is one that carries a maximum penalty of at least five years in prison.
The complainant may also be charged with the offence of attempting to pervert the course of justice under section 319, the maximum penalty for which is also 14 years’ imprisonment.