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‘Flawed’: State to audit all rape trials

13th Floor St James
NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Sally Dowling has slapped down claims her office was running sexual assault cases that lacked sufficient evidence.

NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Sally Dowling SC will conduct an audit on all sexual assault cases to ensure they are able to stand trial amid criticisms from judges.

On Wednesday, Ms Dowling revealed she had instructed her team to examine “every brief” pertaining to sexual assault that goes to trial to ensure each individual case “satisfies the tests in the prosecution guidelines”.

“In the face of judicial criticism, it’s always appropriate to self-examine and consider whether we are doing things properly,” she said.

“I’m doing an audit in response – as any prudent manager would do – to satisfy myself that there isn’t a problem. And if there is, (the audit is designed) to fix it.”

13th Floor St James
NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Sally Dowling said she had ordered an audit to ensure all sexual assault and rape cases ‘satisfies the tests in the prosecution guidelines’.

Just last month, District Court Judge Peter Whitford wrote in a judgment that “time and time again” sexual assault proceedings were being bought before the courts “without apparent regard to whether there might be reasonable prospects of securing a conviction”.

He said the cases were putting “inappropriate stress and disruption” on alleged victims and causing “anxiety, stress, humiliation and distress”.

In December, another District Court judge, Robert Newlinds SC, went so far to claim there was a “sort of unwritten policy or expectation” at the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions that sexual assault cases were being prosecuted without a “sensible and rational interrogation of that complainant”.

In comments made to the court while presiding over a rape trial, he said the defendant’s evidence was “obviously flawed”.

“I think the prosecution took the lazy and perhaps politically expedient course of identifying that the complainant alleged she had been sexually assaulted and without properly considering the question of whether there was any evidence to support that allegation,” he said.

However, Ms Dowling rejected there were any “secret policies” that encouraged the DPP to proceed with sexual assault and rape cases in court and said the assertions were “very offensive”.

“The view taken within my ­office was that those comments were unjustified,” she said.