Legal centre: NSW Police must release internal sexual assault procedures

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The Redfern Legal Centre (RLC) is calling on the NSW Police to release its operating procedures on beginning an investigation into an alleged sexual assault.

The RLC was responding to NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller’s comment on ABC Radio National on March 8 that the case of Christian Porter’s alleged 1988 rape of a woman who has since died would “probably” not have made it to court, even if the alleged victim were still alive.

RLC police accountability solicitor Samantha Lee said on March 9: “Redfern Legal Centre often advises women who have reported an alleged sexual assault to NSW Police in situations where police have decided not to investigate.

“These women are often upset and frustrated because they are not informed about how police came to the decision to not take their matter any further.”

A national discussion about police investigations into alleged sexual assaults has been taking place since the sexual assault allegations were made.

RLC says the release of guidelines that assist police to come to a decision where there is “insufficient admissible evidence” to prosecute a sexual assault allegation is particularly critical. 

“The journey through the justice system begins with police. Police are the first port of call. What happens at the beginning of that journey can greatly impact where that journey leads,” Lee said.

Redfern Legal Centre believes there needs to be greater transparency to inform the public about the steps NSW Police should take to gather evidence, especially at the initial reporting stage. This is to ensure there is sufficient evidence to seek the Department of Public Prosecutions’ advice.

“To ensure a safe and dignified pathway for women and men to report such allegations, it is critical for NSW Police to provide the public with a clear understanding about the internal procedures and process that NSW Police follow to determine whether to commence investigations into an alleged sexual assault.

“Greater transparency of policing practices can go a long way to improving trust in policing, especially for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people,” Lee concluded.