NSW police passed up SA offer to take statement alleging sexual assault against Christian Porter

Request to travel interstate to take accuser’s statement was rejected in March 2020 because it was not deemed essential, documents reveal

New South Wales police passed up an offer by South Australian police to take a statement alleging sexual assault against Christian Porter – apparently without putting the option to the alleged victim – new documents reveal.

The documents, produced to the NSW Legislative Council after a motion by the MP David Shoebridge, reveal how a request to travel interstate to take the statement was rejected in March 2020 because it was not deemed essential.

They also show the NSW police rejected a request from Porter’s accuser to take her statement via Skype and alternatives were not pursued because the alleged victim seemed “resigned” to Covid-19 interruptions to travel delaying it until September.

Shoebridge told Guardian Australia the documents show the NSW police “made two separate decisions to delay taking a statement, neither of which appears to have had a valid basis”.

The alleged victim, who took her own life in June 2020, has accused Porter of raping her when she was a 16-year-old in January 1988 and he was 17. Porter strenuously denies the allegation.

On Thursday Guardian Australia revealed that despite taking a statement from a longtime friend of Porter and his accuser who says he had “relevant discussions” with both, the NSW police have refused to reopen the investigation because the complainant withdrew from it before taking her life.

The NSW police documents confirm the alleged victim first approached South Australian police in November 2019.

On 27 February 2020 the alleged victim was in Sydney meeting with lawyers over a potential civil case. At a meeting “at short notice”, the NSW police say they offered the alleged victim to return to Sydney to make a formal statement but she opted instead for NSW police to visit her in South Australia so she could have a support person present. NSW police detectives made an application on 10 March 2020 to travel to Adelaide.

The application was supported by the coordinator of the investigation teams in the child abuse and sex crimes squad who noted the matter “involves a very high-profile [person of interest] and a detailed statement is required”.

“There are circumstances relating to this victim that in my view requires 2X investigators present,” he said.

The request was supported by the commander of the child abuse and sex crimes squad and the state crime command, the latter on 12 March 2020 one day after NSW police circulated a new policy that interstate travel now required deputy commissioner sign-off in response to the growing Covid-19 crisis.

The application was rejected on 13 March 2020 by the deputy commissioner of investigations and counter-terrorism who claimed there was “insufficient detail … to justify why this travel cannot be deferred in accordance with [the new policy] … restricting interstate travel to operational necessity”.

Shoebridge said this decision was “deeply troubling’”. “I can’t imagine something more important or essential for the NSW police than investigating an alleged sexual assault,” he told Guardian Australia.

Answers to questions on notice reveal on 1 April the alleged victim asked to commence her statement as soon as possible by telephone or a Skype video call.

The NSW police claimed a “joint decision” was made against this course, but the documents reveal the police advised the alleged victim on 2 April “her statement would not at this stage be commenced by phone / video call”. “[Name redacted] was understanding of investigators’ position.”

On 20 April, NSW police said the alleged victim was “very keen” to make her statement, and contacted South Australian police to ask for their help to take it, reaching out to a brevet sergeant who the alleged victim “spoke highly of”.

The NSW police said they hadn’t told the alleged victim about this option because they first wanted to check their South Australian colleagues’ availability.

On 22 April, NSW police attempted to call and emailed the alleged victim, explaining that “unfortunately our organisation’s travel restrictions are still in place” but without disclosing the possibility of getting SA police to take her statement.

After a further discussion with the alleged victim on 26 April, NSW police summarised that she was “currently doing well, but has basically [resigned] to the fact that it might be September-ish before things return to ‘normal’.

“Given this apparent change in urgency, I asked if she is happy to hold off and reassess again in another 4 weeks. She is happy with that arrangement.”

The NSW police said while she was “initially very keen to commence her statement as soon as possible, she is now quite understanding of the current travel restrictions and is now happy to wait until these are eased and we are able to travel to SA again to obtain her statement”.

NSW police continued to check the availability of South Australian colleagues to take the statement, noting it was possible the alleged victim could change her mind.

On 30 April, the brevet sergeant replied she was “more than happy to assist”, offering to take the statement in early May before her transfer to a different area on 7 May.

“I’m more than happy to help you out with things on my end as much as I can,” she wrote on 1 May.

Shoebridge said that “disturbingly” despite the South Australian police agreeing to take the statement, the NSW police “shut this option down without ever referring back to the complainant”.

“This was a critical decision that led to months more delay during which the complainant tragically took her life.”

On 4 May a progress report noted the investigation was “on hold pending relaxing of travel restrictions imposed by Covid-19”.

Police had ongoing contact with the alleged victim, about five or six times, before a welfare check and travel status update on 22 June. The woman withdrew from the investigation on 23 June and took her life on 24 June.

On 20 August the investigation was formally closed, with a report noting the “sad outcome” of the complainant’s death but praising investigators for following procedure and keeping the “victim’s welfare and mental health” at the forefront of their minds.

The manager of the investigation teams concluded it was a “difficult investigation given the Covid-19 restrictions and the complexities surrounding the statement that was required from the victim”.

“Ultimately it is a sad outcome that the victim took her life, however that is absolutely no reflection on the investigators involved – they were outstanding in all of their dealings with the victim.”

Scott Morrison has steadfastly refused to call an independent inquiry, declaring Porter is an “innocent man under our law”.

The South Australian coroner could still consider whether the alleged sexual assault should be included in a potential inquest into the woman’s death, but has yet to announce a decision.

Porter has launched a defamation case against the ABC and Louise Milligan, which may also test the allegation if it proceeds to trial and the broadcaster and investigative journalist invoke the defence of truth.

Porter has been reshuffled out of the attorney general’s portfolio into science and technology, also losing the position of leader of the House.

Contributor

Paul Karp

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
NSW police never started investigating Christian Porter rape allegation, internal review reveals
Police asked to close investigation on same day they received a dossier which included a statement by the woman detailing her allegations

Paul Karp

20, Sep, 2021 @1:09 AM

Article image
Report finds Covid recession hit women harder than men – as it happened
Elizabeth Broderick says parliament’s culture ‘not necessarily built on dignity and respect’. This blog is now closed

Calla Wahlquist (now) and Matilda Boseley

08, Mar, 2021 @7:14 AM

Article image
AFP didn't pass on documents detailing allegation against Christian Porter to NSW police
NSW police say federal police only passed on a ‘summary email’ of the historical rape allegation against the attorney general which he denies

Michael McGowan and Amy Remeikis

12, Mar, 2021 @7:12 AM

Article image
Australia news live: Christian Porter says he is entirely innocent of historical rape allegation
The attorney general makes a statement in Perth saying he will not step down. This blog is now closed

Michael McGowan, Amy Remeikis and Matilda Boseley (earlier)

03, Mar, 2021 @8:32 AM

Article image
NSW police have formal statement from friend of woman who alleged Christian Porter raped her
Police insist investigation remains closed despite Macquarie Bank’s James Hooke supplying statement on 17 and 22 March

Paul Karp

08, Apr, 2021 @5:24 AM

Article image
'These aren't random events': calls grow for greater police accountability over Indigenous arrests
Legal experts say independent investigations are needed into allegedly excessive use of force

Lorena Allam

27, Jun, 2020 @8:00 PM

Article image
Pipeline factory near Ningaloo Reef reportedly scrapped – as it happened
NSW reports no new locally acquired Covid cases; NSW and Victoria to ease restrictions; federal parliament returns for the final sitting week of 2020. This blog is now closed

Michael McGowan now and Amy Remeikis earlier

07, Dec, 2020 @8:17 AM

Article image
Academy apologises for welcoming Christian Porter to science portfolio after social media backlash
Science organisation says sorry for ‘poorly worded tweet’ as Morrison government also under fire for promoting an MP with a history of anti-trans comments to assistant minister for women

Paul Karp

30, Mar, 2021 @6:19 AM

Article image
ABC vows to continue reporting 'without fear' after police raid Sydney offices
Broadcaster’s managing director says AFP raid over 2017’s The Afghan Files series ‘raises legitimate concerns over freedom of the press’

Amy Remeikis

05, Jun, 2019 @1:42 AM

Article image
Christian Porter will return to work on full $370,000 salary despite delegating some duties
Federal attorney general returns on 31 March and Labor is angry he’ll receive a ‘full-time salary for part-time work’

Paul Karp

22, Mar, 2021 @10:53 AM