Up to 400 sex assault cases brought by NSW DPP to be reviewed

Up to 400 rape cases will reportedly be reviewed as part of an audit into sexual assault cases prosecuted by the NSW DPP.

Earlier this month, Director of Prosecutions Sally Dowling SC announced an audit of all sexual assault cases to ensure they are able to stand trial amid criticisms from judges.

She told a NSW budget estimates hearing 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.”

The Australian reported on Tuesday that between 300 and 400 cases which had been committed to trial this year would be investigated.

Sources told The Australian Ms Dowling the audit would likely include all sexual assault matters where the complainant was over the age of consent of 16 years.

Crown Prosecutors, who are not local to where the case has been listed, will review individual cases to ensure no conflicts of interest arise.

The audit follows complaints from at least five NSW judges who believed prosecutors were taking a “believe the victim” stance and rather than dropping impossible cases.

The Australian said other judges had told Ms Dowling they did not agree with that assessment.

In February, 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”.

Judge Penelope Wass has also been critical of the cases brought by the Office of the DPP.

“The officers of the Director of Public Prosecutions who prosecute on behalf of the Crown enjoy the power to prosecute in the public interest,” Judge Wass said.

“A prosecutor is required to do more than shepherd incredible and dishonest allegations of sexual assault through the criminal justice system, leaving it to the jury to carry the burden of decision making that ought to have been made by the prosecutor.”

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