Why NSW Police never interviewed Christian Porter

NSW Police have revealed why they never interviewed former Attorney-General Christian Porter over a 1988 rape allegation and confirmed the alleged victim tried to deliver a statement via Skype during the coronavirus lockdowns.

Outlining new information about how the case was handled, police have confirmed the woman who accused Mr Porter of rape asked to deliver her witness statement via Skype during the COVID-19 pandemic – a request the NSW Police resisted and her friends and family were never interviewed after her death.

The woman ultimately decided to withdraw her complaint after COVID delayed the meeting with detectives and died by suicide at home just 24 hours later.

Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations that relate to a 1988 debating conference in Sydney. He has launched defamation action against the ABC over the reporting of an anonymous letter sent to the Prime Minister setting out allegations against a member of Cabinet.

He subsequently self-identified himself as the target of the allegations.

RELATED: NSW Police never got letter outlining allegations

It was the woman’s decision to withdraw the complaint that resulted in police not interviewing Mr Porter after her death, according to NSW Police.

“It is current standard practice that once a signed victim statement has been obtained from a victim and further corroborative enquiries are made, the formal allegation can and should be put to the person of interest as per procedural fairness principles for investigators,” NSW Police said.

“On June 23, 2020 the (alleged) victim clearly communicated to investigators that she no longer felt able to proceed with the report. The NSWPF did not have a signed statement from the (alleged) victim, hence no formal allegation to put to the person of interest. In keeping with the (alleged) victim’s wishes no further investigation took place and the person of interest was not interviewed.”

NSW Police established Strike Force Wyndarra in February 2020 after receiving information from Mr Porter’s accuser.

Detectives from Strike Force Wyndarra were due to travel to Adelaide to take the woman’s formal statement in March 2020 but their trip was postponed after the COVID-19 outbreak.

RELATED: Accuser’s family begs media not to identify daughter

On Wednesday June 24, 2020, the woman’s body was located at a home at Adelaide by South Australia Police. She had committed suicide just hours after telling police she did not want to proceed with a formal complaint.

In answers to questions on notice, NSW Police confirmed the complainant did ask to provide a formal statement over the telephone or via video.

“Yes. On April 1, 2020, the (alleged) victim requested that she commence her statement by way of Skype,” the response states.

“Investigators consulted with the (alleged) victim on April 2, 2020 by way of teleconference. Options were presented to the (alleged) victim in relation to obtaining her statement. A joint decision by all parties was made not to conduct the interview remotely. There were a number of reasons which led to this decision. The (alleged) victim was understanding and supportive of this decision.”

NSW Police also confirmed they made six telephone calls to the woman which were not answered.

RELATED: Porter, Reynolds moved in Cabinet reshuffle

The alleged victim also made two telephone calls to investigators which were not answered. On both occasions the woman’s missed calls were returned within seven minutes and five hours and 26 minutes respectively.

NSW Greens MLC David Shoebridge said the responses from NSW Police demanded further explanation.

“These answers raise yet more questions about the response of the NSW Police,” he said.

“When you speak to experienced investigators who have dealt with historical allegations they will tell you it’s not perfect but sometimes it’s the only option to take a statement by phone or video link.

“What is very distressing here is that this was an option that was requested by the complainant and open to police but for whatever reason was taken off the table.”

The answers provided also detail the Australian Federal Police decision to brief the NSW Police on the letter outlining the allegations rather than send it to investigators in full.

The letter requested urgent action be taken by the Prime Minister to investigate the 1988 alleged rape.

RELATED: Details of Porter’s ABC defamation suit

It urged the Prime Minister to set up an independent parliamentary investigation into the matter, similar to that commissioned by the High Court into allegations against former Justice, Dyson Heydon.

“When news of [the complainant’s alleged] rape becomes widely known to the public (as it most likely will), legitimate questions will be asked as to who knew what, when they knew and what they did,” the letter states.

“This is occurring today in relation to Brittany Higgins. The loss of respect for our political institutions will be exacerbated.

“There will be considerable damage to community perceptions of justice … and the parliament when this story becomes public if it is simultaneously revealed that senior people (like yourselves) were aware of the accusation but had done nothing.

“Failing to take parliamentary action because the NSW Police cannot take criminal action would seem like wilful blindness.”

The South Australia Coroner is yet to determine whether to conduct a public inquest into the woman’s death.

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Coronial inquest into accuser’s death the only way forward

Australia’s justice system has failed the Attorney-General Christian Porter, his accuser and their families.

This is through no fault of the Attorney-General. It is also not the fault of the woman’s family.

It is a consequence of the untimely death of the 49-year-old complainant.

Some suggest that the best response is to establish a quasi judicial parliamentary inquiry to consider the rape allegation denied by Mr Porter, to air the grievances of all sides.

But critics are right to observe that this would set a bad precedent.

In what jurisdiction around the world has a Parliament established a parallel justice system to make findings about a criminal matter with a dead chief witness for the prosecution?

How would this work? What would be the evidentiary tests? What would be the consequences? What other criminal allegations would Parliament start prosecuting next?

Would it only be for politicians and allegations previously made by dead people? Or does it represent a new US-style confirmation hearing into the current and future Attorney-Generals?

There is an alternative. The answer is a coronial inquest into the death of Mr Porter’s accuser. This is an option her family supports.

Let’s consider what makes this case so unique and perhaps impossible to resolve.

RELATED: Family of woman who accused Christian Porter of rape support inquiry

Firstly, the complainant is dead. As a result, the NSW police say there’s not enough admissible evidence to launch an investigation, let alone a prosecution.

Earlier this week, the NSW police declared “case closed”.

Some journalists have rushed to suggest that as a result Mr Porter has been “cleared” but sadly and entirely unfairly for Mr Porter, this is not what has occurred.

Since there was never any police investigation – the Attorney-General has never been interviewed police – there was never anything to be cleared of.

Is this what journalists think constitutes police procedure these days?

The coppers don’t even ask you if you’ve done it but if the alleged victim dies it’s “case closed” and you’re “cleared” on the 6pm news?

If so, we have bigger problems in Australian journalism and basic reading comprehension than we realised.

Of course, the police are entirely within their rights not to proceed.

They explained the reasons why on Thursday including the fact that the distressed woman rang them in June to withdraw her complaint, cut her hair to replicate the Louise Brooks style bob she had in 1988 and died by suicide in her backyard.

With her dead, the NSW police understandably don’t think there’s any chance of laying charges, let alone getting them to court.

RELATED: NSW Police reveal Porter accuser asked to drop complaint before taking her own life

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister was also entirely correct not to show the Attorney-General the anonymous letter outlining the woman’s claims in an unsworn affidavit she prepared with her lawyer Michael Bradley.

It would be entirely improper to show the accused person the witness statement of the complainant before he is interviewed by police

What that also means of course is that Mr Porter has never been asked to provide a sworn statement on the matter or give evidence in a witness box.

He should be given that opportunity.

Given his reputation has been sullied and he has been denied the chance to properly clear his name as a result of the unique circumstances of this case he should be afforded that opportunity.

Mr Porter should be called to give evidence at an SA coronial inquest, not in front of what has been described as a “baying pack” of journalists in Perth, who peppered him with questions before he walked out on Wednesday.

The Attorney-General has complained he has been subjected to trial by the media. It’s time to let the coronial system do its job.

The SA coroner should call an inquest into the death of his accuser.

This should probe not only the decision to release her from a Melbourne psychiatric institution to “quarantine” at home for two weeks after a bout of PTSD before her suicide but the circumstances of her decision to ring police to suspend the investigation just days before her death.

The Attorney-General deserves the right to clear his name, in the witness box, in sworn evidence.

Given he has already explained that “nothing happened” on the night in question, this is an opportunity to restore his reputation and good name.

Comparisons have also been made with Bill Shorten who was investigated by Victoria Police for an alleged rape that was said to have occurred when he was a teenager. Months later Victoria Police announced there was no prospect of a conviction and no charges would be laid. Mr Shorten then identified himself as the target of the “untrue, abhorrent” allegations.

But the comparison is flawed. Mr Shorten was the subject of a 10 month police investigation, submitted voluntarily to a police interview. He never invoked his right to silence. Many alleged witnesses were interviewed.

That cannot happen in this case, because the accuser is dead. Mr Porter has never been interviewed by police.

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