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Sex Assault Conviction Rate One In 100, Inquiry Finds

ONLY one per cent of alleged sexual assaults in WA result in a conviction, an inquiry prompted by the murder of an eight-year-old girl has found.
A parliamentary committee investigated decisions by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) not to proceed with charges of assault or sexual offences in the past five years.
The inquiry was set up following concerns by opposition police spokesman Rob Johnson over the killing of eight-year-old Sofia Rodriguez-Urrutia-Shu by Dante Arthurs in 2006.
During Arthurs' sentencing, it was revealed police dropped earlier charges against Arthurs over an attack on another eight-year-old girl in 2003.
The Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) dropped the charges of deprivation of liberty and indecent dealing against Arthurs because police said there was no forensic evidence.
They also blew the police interview, intimidating Arthurs when they thought video and audio tapes had been turned off.
But a cold case review launched last year found a bloodstain on shorts Arthurs was wearing during the 2003 attack matched the victim. The were not tested in 2003.
Arthurs has since confessed, in return for indemnity.
The committee report tabled in parliament today found only one per cent of all reported and unreported alleged sexual assaults resulted in a conviction.
Only nine per cent of reported cases secured a conviction.
The committee found evidence of a lack of adequate training for police interviewing officers, which led to difficulties with respect to the admissibility of evidence.
It called for a senior police officer or lawyer to monitor police interviews in sexual assault cases.
The inquiry also found a lack of communications between different agencies, no clear policy direction and resourcing for police and a perception of shortcomings in their investigations contributed to low conviction rates.
Rates of reporting were also low because victims were reluctant to come forward for a variety of reasons, including that the judicial system would not work for them.
It recommended the operations of the police Sexual Assault Squad be expanded to include investigations in all cases of sexual assault, not just those where the perpetrator is not known to the victim.
The committee said police, the DPP, the Child Protection Unit all needed further training in handling sexual assault cases to improve the quality of interviews, evidence and briefs.
The committee also called on the right to silence be amended to reflect UK law.
In the UK, the jury is allowed to draw adverse inferences when an accused refuses to answer a question about a fact which is later relied on in defence.

AAP (10-4-2008)
Nicholas Perpitch

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