Our client was a university student who initially faced various allegations made to the university by his former girlfriend, who was also a student. When allegations of sexual assault arose, police were informed and began an investigation. The client vehemently denied any wrongdoing – suggesting that the allegations were fabricated when his relationship with the woman broke down. Unfortunately, this is an all too frequent scenario.
Once the matter become a police investigation our client had to decide whether to ‘exercise his right to silence’, or participate in a police interview, or provide a statement to the police. Or client was represented by criminal defence lawyer Phillip Gibson, accredited criminal law specialist and a Partner at Nyman Gibson Miralis. In a situation like this it would not be unusual for a client to say nothing to police. This would normally result in criminal charges being laid.
However in this case our client was able to provide detailed instructions about the sexual assault allegation and about the entire relationship with the complainant. It was decided that our client would provide a detailed written statement to the police including copies of bank transactions, credit card purchase details etc which supported his version of events.
Providing a written statement meant that we controlled the information being provided to the police whereas in a police interview it is harder to control what is happening. An accused person taking part in a police interview (ERISP) may feel or look awkward in front of the cameras, or answer a question in a manner that could be misconstrued or result in a lot of additional questions being asked – all of which would potentially be played to a jury if the matter progressed to a jury trial.
Outcome of investigations:
Police continued their investigation and requested some further information from our client. We were able to provide this information and ultimately the investigation was closed and no charges were laid.
Notwithstanding that the police declined to commence prosecution, the University recommended their investigation proceed into the remaining , including allegations of Assault, Intimidation and damaging property.
If the allegations were found to be true, then our client faced expulsion from the university and no doubt this would affect his ability to study in any university as well as in his chosen career. Again it was decided that the client would provide a detailed written statement to the investigator. This tactic was very successful. Sensibly, the disciplinary committee determined that all allegations against our client be dismissed.
The need for expert representation:
Serious allegations like these carry the possibility of charges that have standard non-parole periods for persons found guilty at trial. Sexual Assault carries a potential penalty of 14 years imprisonment [section 61I Crimes Act] and a standard non-parole period of 7 years [section 54D Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act]. Our client would have faced many years in gaol if these ‘stories’ had been believed.