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Why it’s best to get a specialist lawyer for sex offences

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Scrabble Tiles That Spell Out the Word LawyersWritten by Kristina Kothrakis, Partner, Doogue + George Defence Lawyers

Being accused of rape or sexual assault is a distressing experience and choosing a lawyer during this time can be incredibly difficult.

Sexual offences are a specialist area of criminal law requiring tailored defence strategies which consider unique rules of evidence, the sensitives of complainants and an understanding of likely outcomes.
Here are some things to consider.

Preparation

Sexual offences are incredibly complex and early preparation is key. This is particularly the case when a false complaint has been made.

Gaining early information about the nature of a complaint and the complainant is crucial to ensure accusations can be contested.

This may involve gathering evidence through a private investigator, subpoenaing telephone records, downloading social media content, detailing banking records and various other investigation.

Early evidence gathering is used to anticipate issues at trial, including:

  • Was there consent to what happened?
  • When did they first complain and to who?
  • What evidence can we lead about behaviour inconsistent with the complaint?

Defences

There are many potential defences to charges of rape and sexual assault. These include:

  • That you didn’t do the acts you are accused of;
  • That the complainant consented to the acts;
  • That you honestly and reasonably believed the complainant consented;

Lawyers who specialise in sexual offence matters understand the nuances of putting forward this sort of defence. This includes an understanding of the kind of evidence required to substantiate your case.

Rules of Evidence

Sexual offences have unique rules regarding the admissibility of evidence and the conduct of criminal trials. Specialist procedures apply to the admissibility of:

  • Evidence of sexual reputation and experience;
  • Confidential counselling communications;
  • Expert opinion evidence;
  • Tendency and coincidence evidence;
  • Relationship evidence; and
  • Evidence of recent and delayed complaints.

It’s crucial that your defence lawyer understands what is and isn’t allowed in preparing a case for trial.
This can include preparing specialist applications to admit certain forms of evidence that help your case and exclude evidence that hurts your case.

For example, in Victoria evidence of a prior conviction of a sexual offence can only be admitted at trial (for either a tendency or coincident purpose) if it has “significant probative value which substantially outweighs any prejudicial effect it may have on the defendant”.

Challenging Lies

Sexual offences are one of the most stigmatised offences to be charged with. There is a large amount of cultural pressure for police and prosecutors to believe the complainant and secure a conviction.

Whilst it’s incredibly difficult for victims of sexual abuse to report matters to police, it’s very easy for liars.
A specialist lawyer understands that nuances of conducting a case given the current climate. This involves treating complainants with respectfully whilst conducting robust cross-examinations to test the evidence and expose liars.

It requires an in-depth understanding of the potential causes of false accusations, including issues with memory, personality disorders and mental health issues.

Trust in Experience

Doogue + George criminal defence lawyers are specialist sexual offence lawyers with decades of experience preparing defences in this area.

Our lawyers have secured many wins against accusations of rape and sexual assault, including hundreds of committal and jury trials.

To help you understand your options further, we have prepared a lengthy document about ‘Dealing With Allegations of Sexual Assault’.

Don’t delay in getting advice on current or anticipated charges, contact us.

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