Wrongfully accused of sexual assault

Whilst rarely spoken about, false accusations of sexual assault do happen.  They are not insignificant, or an anomaly and they matter. Even if the accused person is found not guilty, being wrongfully accused of a sexual assault can destroy their life. From lasting psychological damage, loss of employment or career opportunities, finances for legal bills to broken relationships and lost friends, false accusations of sexual assault do cause real harm, even before the prospect of imprisonment is considered.

How common are false claims of sexual assault?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website shows that of 787 cases prosecuted in the NSW District Court for sexual assault and related offences in the 2020-2021 financial year:

  • 381 offenders pleaded guilty.
  • 162 accused persons were found guilty at trial.
  • 166 accused persons were found not guilty at trial.
  • 78 cases against accused persons were withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Prosecutions after committal but before trial.

These statistics reveal that 30% of the sexual assault charges committed to the District Court were withdrawn or a jury was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an accused person was guilty.

Australian Bureau of Statistics website show reveals that NSW Police or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew a further 234 sexual assault and related offences in the Local Court.

The above figures do not include sexual assault allegations that are reported to the police but that the police do not prosecute.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reports that 3,081 allegations of adult sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2021. Comparing these statistics with the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, it is evident that the number of reported cases of sexual assault is significantly less than the number of prosecutions the police commence for sexual assaults.

There are two main reasons that an allegation of a sexual assault will not result in the initiation of criminal charges. The first is that person making the complaint does not want to proceed with the charges. The second is that the police do not consider the allegation to be credible, i.e., they believe the complaint to be false.

Do statistics about sexual assault allegations tell the full story?

No, statistics about sexual assault allegations do not tell the full story. The NSW Police and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions must come clean about their reasons for not initiating proceedings for alleged sexual assaults or withdrawing proceedings for sexual assaults after they have been commenced. Only then will the public begin to get a clearer picture of the prevalence of false complaints of sexual assaults.

What kind of a person would make up false claims of sexual assault? 

There are many reasons why someone would lie about a sexual assault. Some of the reasons or motives that our criminal lawyers have encountered include:

  • To obtain a financial advantage e.g., via settlement out of court or access to funds for victims.
  • To gain an advantage in family court in a child custody matter.
  • To obtain a visa to allow a person to remain in Australia.
  • To avoid the consequences of cheating on a partner or spouse.
  • A form of revenge and/or to cause harm to a partner or ex-partner.
  • Mental illness or personality disorders.

Other false claims of sexual assault may be a mistake or made from confusion as to what constitutes sexual assault.

Wrongful sexual assault allegations destroy lives

Imprisonment, whether on remand when bail is refused, or after being wrongfully convicted, is not the only way that lives are destroyed when someone is falsely accused of sexual assault.

An allegation of sexual assault is very difficult to keep quiet and for those close to you to not find out about. Even if a criminal charge of sexual assault is not reported in the media, it will show up on any criminal record check while the proceedings are in foot and people may be contractually required to disclose any charges to their employers.

Often, all it takes is the accusation itself for those around you to decide you’re guilty, even if you are innocent. There is no way of protecting your reputation if you are accused of sexual assault.

This can have a devastating impact on all aspects of your life.  It can cause relationships to break down, marriages to fall apart, lost friends, and loss of contact with family members.  At work, it can result in being ostracised by colleagues, and missed career progression opportunities, and for those in some roles particularly where they are in a position of trust, it can even mean they are not allowed to work until court proceedings are finalised.  In some cases, this can take years. The impact financially can be devastating.

What to do if wrongfully accused of sexual assault

Being wrongfully accused of sexual assault is one of the most stressful things that could happen to you.   Simply being accused, regardless of your innocence, can put doubt in the minds of those closest to you. You could potentially lose your job; relationships could break down and the psychological and financial impact is huge.

It is important to understand that just because you are innocent, it is no guarantee you will be found not guilty, especially in the current climate where the public perception is shifting towards a person being presumed guilty if they are accused of a sexual assault.

There are steps you can take to minimise the impact of the claims against you and help build a solid defence against allegations and to maximise your chances of being found not guilty.  These are outlined below.

If you have been wrongfully accused of sexual assault, get in touch with the Australian Criminal law Group.  Our criminal lawyers have the experience and track record to assist those accused of sexual assault be found not guilty at court and, in some cases, have charges withdrawn before trial.

Get in contact to book your first free appointment at one of our offices in Parramatta, Sydney, or Blacktown.

Understand the gravity of being accused of sexual assault

If wrongfully accused of sexual assault it is important to take the matter seriously, no matter how ridiculous the claims are.  It is easy to minimise or completely deny the situation you are in, particularly if you are innocent.  Many believe that if they are innocent then they have nothing to worry about.  Nothing could be further from the truth.

It’s important you understand that you must act to prepare to defend the claims against you. Don’t fail to prepare or make mistakes by doing or saying the wrong thing because you didn’t think the claims were a big deal.

Seek legal advice for sexual assault accusations

The earlier you speak with an experienced criminal defence lawyer, the greater your chance of successfully defending the claims against you.

The legal system is complex and navigating wrongful allocations of sexual assault can be tricky.  What you say and do can be held against you by the police and in court.  Without proper legal representation, you could be exposed to a miscarriage of justice.  A good lawyer will be able to ensure that evidence that is inadmissible in court is not used against you.

Your lawyer will also be able to guide you through the legal process.  They will be able to help you make the right decisions and say the right things during police investigations. They will be able to not only develop your defence but also negotiate with the police on your behalf. The right defence lawyer may be able to prove that the claims are unfounded and have your case dropped before it even makes it to court.

Practice your right to silence

If you have been accused of sexual assault, it is important that you watch what you say and do. The best thing you can do is not say anything at all.  Whatever you say or do can and will be used against you.  Police will be attempting to gather as much information to prove your guilt.  Police have also been known to use questionable and dishonest tactics to get evidence against the accused.  Don’t get caught out by saying the wrong thing.

Let your defence team be your voice.  Let them talk to witnesses for you. They should know exactly what to do and say to get the best results for you.

Do not speak to your accuser

You might be tempted to contact your accuser when wrongful claims of sexual assault are made against you.  It’s natural to want to respond to the claims, tell them to tell the truth or find out why they are putting you through this ordeal. Don’t do this.  Everything you say will be used against you. Any communication you have can expose you to additional accusations against you or help the prosecution present your character in a poor light.

Police frequently use a tactic where they have an accuser contact you on the telephone to obtain an admission of guilt. If contacted by an accuser, do not speak with them. Chances are the person is at a police station making the call and the conversation is being recorded.

Do not talk about your case with others

Any person other than your lawyer, to who you provide your version of events, can be subpoenaed by the police to give evidence against you in court. You can tell people you have been charged with an offence, but you should refrain from giving them any details of what occurred beyond telling them you are not guilty and fighting the charges.

Do not slander your accuser

You might be tempted to slander your accuser to anyone who will listen.  It’s natural to be angry and want to lash out.  By doing so, you could be inadvertently harming your case. One unconsidered comment that is repeated to your accuser could destroy your entire case.   Remember, if you have shared acquaintances and friends, they may have already taken your accuser’s side.

Keep your emotions in check, no matter how upsetting it is to be wrongfully accused of sexual assault.  You will need to stay focused on taking the right steps to prove your innocence and beat any charges brought against you.

Answer your criminal lawyer’s questions

You will need to provide as much information to your criminal lawyer as they require. Answer questions honestly and avoid keeping details from them.  If you fail to tell your lawyer something that later comes up in court, it could seriously weaken your defence.

As soon as you can, write a detailed timeline of events leading up to and during the time of the alleged sexual assault. You should include any information that could be pertinent to your case including details about your relationship with the alleged victim and other circumstances surrounding the alleged event. Make sure you write at the top of the page: “instructions to a lawyer”. This will cause the document to become legally ‘privileged’ and make it inadmissible against you if police obtain a copy for example where a search warrant is executed at your home or your phone/computers are seized some other way.

Gather evidence to give to your lawyer

Gather as much evidence as possible that could potentially support your defence and undermine your accuser’s claims.  Provide this to your lawyer as soon as possible.

Potential evidence includes things like prior text messages, emails, clothing, photographs, receipts, GPS data, social media messages etc.  It includes communications between your accuser and you as well as with others.

You will also want to provide your lawyer with any information about the dynamics of your relationship with your accuser, what happened during the alleged event as well as any potential motives of your accuser. Was there jealousy involved?  What advantage can they gain from making these allegations e.g., Relating to child custody, financial gain etc.

Do not destroy evidence

Do not destroy evidence that you believe could be detrimental to your defence.  It is better that your lawyer is prepared and has full knowledge of your case.  You may even end up destroying evidence that could have been used to help build your defence.

Your expert sexual assault defence lawyer will draw on their expert knowledge and experience to determine what evidence can be used to build the right defence strategy for you.  They have the experience and knowledge needed to get the best results for you, so it is always best to give all possible evidence to your lawyer.

Create a witness contact list

You will need to compile a witness list for your lawyer.  This should include anyone that can testify about what happened during the alleged event as well as anyone who can testify about your relationship with your accuser.

Include the person’s name, address, phone number, and brief details about your relationship with them and what they can testify to in court.

Learn about sexual assault laws in NSW

It’s good to know what you’re up against and to know what to expect if you have been accused of sexual assault.

You can read up on the laws in NSW for sexual assault and possible defences by visiting our following pages.

Australian Criminal Law Group’s Sexual Assault Defence Team

Australian Criminal Law Group is home to expert defence lawyers for sexual assault offences.   Our lawyers are experienced at working with clients that have had wrongful allocations of sexual assault against them and have a proven track record of getting the best possible results.

We understand how unfair and incredibly stressful wrongful claims of sexual assault against you can be.  Our lawyers are compassionate, patient and understanding of your situation.  That’s why they fight to help you prove your innocence and reclaim your reputation.

Australian Criminal Law Group offers free first consultations and fixed fees for non-complex cases, with offices in Parramatta, Sydney, and Blacktown

Get in contact with the Australian Criminal Law Group on 02 8815 8167 or via website enquiry so we can start building your defence today.

 

Sources:

Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics for family, domestic, sexual violence, physical assault, partner emotional abuse, child abuse, sexual harassment, stalking and safety, Reference period 2016, published  8/11/2017 (accessed 6 July 2022 at 14:50)  https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/2016

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Recorded Crime Statistics quarterly update March 2022, Published June 2022 (accessed 5 June 2022 at 15:02) https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_publication/Pub_Summary/RCS-Quarterly/RCS2022Q1-PageSummary.aspx

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Criminal Courts Statistics Jan 2017-Dec 2021, Published June 2022 (accessed 5 June 2022 at 15:02) https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_publication/Pub_Summary/CCS-Annual/Criminal-Court-Statistics-Dec-2021.aspx

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This information is intended as a general guide to law only.  It should not be relied on as legal advice, and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.

Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, the Australian Criminal Law Group makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.

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