Over the past 15 years we at criminal lawyers perth have been progressively moving towards specialising in defending historical and contemporary sexual assault cases. The accusation, in our experience are predominantly by women of being sexually offended against by men, have risen sharply in the past decade. Correspondingly, men are denying the charge and proceeding to trial in the District Court.
The term sexual assault, once broadly referred to as rape, attaches to a myriad of behaviours. At the risk of oversimplification penetration of the vagina with a finger, tongue or penis is sexual penetration. Touching of a breast or buttock on the outside or on the inside of clothing, can amount to an indecent assault. Taken together these behaviours come under the rubric of sexual assaults.
If proven sexual offending is the most heinous of all crimes particularly so in cases where the complainant is or was at the time of the offending a child.
An immediate term of imprisonment is the proper outcome and once served the offender becomes a registered sex offender. In those cases, the offender’s every move is monitored by Community Protection and there are strict conditions imposed limiting where the offender is permitted to live or go – such as being prohibited to live within a certain distance of a school or prohibited hanging around schools are obvious and unquestionable restrictions.
Our client base of alleged sexual offenders is comprised solely of males aged anywhere between 25 years and 85 years with no criminal history. All have children of various ages. They have professional, trade or business backgrounds and come from stable families. No drugs or alcohol are involved and no history of domestic or any other forms of violence.
Just everyday men from stable families. In every case the client’s immediate family maintains their support. In the case of every client, the allegation is strongly denied. The accused story behind the allegations, as opposed to the police Statement of Material Facts, rarely align. The accused client invariably denies that anything of a sexual nature took place. Close relatives of our clients often also express dismay that an allegation of sexual assault made by a family member comes without warning simply “out of the blue”.
Very often the complainant has been to family gatherings shared by the accused client without upset or warning that something is amiss. This is particularly so with allegation of historical sexual misconduct.
The intervening years have passed without any discernible signs that the accused has sexually assaulted the complainant. That is why when our clients are taken into custody by police and later charged the immediate long terms implications are masked by the suddenness of events.
Arrest and Remand
The moment detectives from the Child Abuse Squad visit your home or place of work marks the commencement of a very terrifying experience for you. On being taken into custody read your legal rights and asked to then participate in a visually recorded interview is at the very least bewildering for all let alone those individuals dealing with police for the first time.
The terror continues at the first mention in court. Your name is called and you proceed to the Bar Table and stand before the presiding magistrate. The magistrate will confirm your name and read out the charges in the presence of everyone sitting in court. Allegations of sexual offending against children are most often met by sneers and head shaking from those sitting in the back of court.
What motivates someone to say to police they were sexually assaulted? From a defence standpoint there are several reasons why a person complains of being sexually assaulted. Firstly, the sexual assault actually happened. Secondly, the sexual assault did not happen and the complainant is motivated by revenge or money. Or thirdly, the memory of the complainant is false or mistaken. It is up to the defence based on client instructions to work out which motivation or combinations of motivations apply.
When it is apparent that the complainant’s memory of events may be in issue, most obvious in cases of historical sex allegation and especially in cases where the complainant was a child at the time of the alleged sexual assault, we consult expert forensic psychologists specialising in memory.
The aim is to help us understand on a case-by-case basis whether the memory of the complainant is fallible or generally reliable and how to approach the particular finding in cross examination. A persons memory can be false and because of this the capability of adults and child witnesses to accurately recollect events from the past and provide reliable evidence in court is often the basis of our cross examination.
When we receive a client brief alleging sexual offending we are conscious of the client’s lack of criminality, if that is the case, and having generally good standing amongst his peers and family. The fact that he has not been before the courts does not escape our attention.
Special interpersonal skills are required in making sure that the burden and very real terror of going through the court system is minimised.
Our Legal Practitioner Director Dr Marc Saupin personally ensures that all clients are given the knowledge and understanding of the court system to successfully navigate the court processes while as far as possible minimising the stress and anxiety suffered by our clients and family leading up to trial.
In preparing for every case, we ensure that the client is kept informed every step of the way. Our current and past clients will agree that they were at all times properly informed about their case and had input into building their defence.