What Do Sexual Assault Lawyers Do?

Cases involving allegations of sexual assault are sensitive. They are also complicated.  When you are accused of committing a crime it is always important to have an expert criminal lawyer acting on your behalf.  Given their sensitivity and complexity, this is especially true for cases involving an allegation of sexual assault.  A sexual assault lawyer will:

  • Help you understand the investigative process
  • Provide you with advice as to how to approach your interview with Victoria Police
  • Help you understand the court processes and procedures.
  • Advise you as to whether or not you have a defence and the prospects of successfully running that defence.
  • Advise you of the range of penalties you face in the event you plead or are found guilty
  • Advise you of the best strategy to employ having regard to the evidence and your instructions

The Investigative Process

It is often the case that the first a person learns about being investigated for a sexual assault is when the police knock on their door and seek to arrest them for the purpose of questioning them. Despite this, the investigation will ordinarily have been going on for a considerable period of time beforehand. Accordingly, by the time the police arrest a person to interview them for a sexual assault they will often have collected the following evidentiary materials:

  • a statement from the complainant;
  • statements from other witnesses;
  • copies of written and audio messages;
  • photos;
  • CCTV footage; and
  • a recording of a telephone conversation between the complainant and the person they have accused of sexually assaulting them made for the purpose of capturing the accused person admitting the offending (known as a pre-text conversation).

The Police Interview

You should make every effort to obtain legal advice before participating in an interview with the police. If you chose to give an account, what you say becomes evidence in court. It is therefore essential that before you participate in an interview that you are informed of your rights, understand the interview process and have a strategy in place for the interview.

The first thing to be clear about is that you have the right to remain silent. This means that when you are interviewed by the police you may remain mute or respond to each question you are asked by saying “no comment”.  Approaching an interview in such a way is the safest course to take, particularly if you have not been able to speak to a lawyer first.  However, as stated above, it is often the case that the first a person learns of an investigation is when a police officer knocks on their door and arrests them for the purpose of questioning them. Obviously, once you are under arrest it is difficult to speak to a lawyer, even though you have the right to do so.  Accordingly, it is often the case that an arrested person does not receive legal advice before they are interviewed. If that is what happens to you, when you participate in your police interview you should remain silent.

If, however, the police contact you by phone to arrange for you to attend by appointment for questioning or you become aware that the police are investigating you in some other way, you should contact a criminal lawyer immediately. That lawyer will help you understand the process of being arrested for the purpose of an interview (so that it will be less confronting for you); explain your rights to you; and advise you of the pros and cons of either exercising your rights or providing the police with your version of events.  In short, they will ensure you are prepared and you have strategy.

Going to Court

In the event a person is charged with sexual assault they will be required to attend Court. An experienced criminal lawyer will help them prepare for court by:

  • Identifying what stream of the Magistrates Court their case will be heard in, the summary stream or the indictable stream, and helping them understand what the process for that stream is. For example, an allegation of sexual touching will ordinarily be heard in the summary stream of the Magistrates’ Court and - whether a person contests the charge or pleads guilty - their matter will remain in the Magistrates’ Court. This can be contrasted with an allegation of rape which will start in the Magistrates Court but will ultimately progress through the Magistrates Court to the County Court for either a trial or a plea hearing. The stream in which a person’s case is heard can impact on their options, how they run their case and how long their case is before the Court.
  • Ensuring the police disclose all evidentiary material they have. This may sound simple enough but the disclosure process is often a fraught one. It is therefore important to have a lawyer who knows what they are looking for and specifically asks for it. It is only once full disclosure has been made that an accused person will have a full understanding of the case against them and thus be able to fully prepare their defence. Not knowing about a piece of evidence or finding out about it too late can cause problems – sometimes insurmountable ones – for a person defending a charge of sexual assault.   
  • Once all requested material is fully disclosed, reviewing that material carefully in order to provide their client with advice as to their various options as to how to progress their case at Court. This will involve an explanation of what, if any, defences are available; the prospects of successfully running a defence; the range of possible sentences should a person plead guilty or be found guilty and the most appropriate and strategic way forward having regard to that person’s instructions.

Expert Criminal Lawyers

As one of Victoria’s most experienced criminal law firms we are well equipped to assist those accused of sexual assault.  Your lawyer at Stary Norton Halphen will provide you with clear advice as to what your options are and act in accordance with your instructions, all the while maintaining their focus on achieving the best possible result that is possible having regard to the circumstances of your case.

If you have been charged, interviewed or are a suspect for a sexual offence call Stary Norton Halphen immediately on (03) 8622 8200 or, if it is the weekend or afterhours, on 0407 410 821.