Prime Minister Scott Morrison has today asserted that Christian Porter is an “innocent man” and that he should remain in his position as Attorney-General, regardless of the historical rape allegations against him.
Christian Porter has vehemently denied any wrongdoing in relation to the allegations against him, and I – and PEDESTRIAN.TV – do not allege that he is guilty.
When asked if he would consider removing Porter from the role of Attorney-General, Morrison replied as follows:
“No, I wouldn’t consider moving to someone else. He’s a fine Attorney-General and a fine Minister for Industrial Relations, and he is an innocent man under our law,” Morrison said.
“And to suggest that there should be some different treatment applied to him, based on what have been allegations that the police have closed the matter on.
“I think that would be grossly inappropriate to take actions against him on that basis. And there’s no basis for doing that at law at all. And when it comes to the principles upon which we run our country, that would be highly inappropriate.”
However, Morrison is seemingly forgetting that the case against Porter was closed largely because of the fact that the alleged victim is unable to testify against him on account of the fact that she is deceased.
So, while we cannot assume that he is guilty of the heinous allegations against him, without any sort of independent inquiry into them, it’s probably not fair to assume that he’s totally innocent.
That’s why many people, including former Solicitor-General Justin Gleeson, have called for an independent inquiry into the allegations, and into whether or not Porter is fit for the position he currently holds.
Why Police Closing Their Investigation Isn’t The Full Story
For starters, it’s worth noting that the police closed the case due to “insufficient admissible evidence”, which doesn’t mean that they have found Porter to be innocent. Rather, it means that the limited evidence they had available – given that the woman took her own life prior to making an official statement – wasn’t enough to warrant further investigation.
This is hardly surprising considering that we already know that rape allegations are near-impossible to prosecute once a victim is dead.
“It’s theoretically still possible for a prosecution to be mounted in a sexual assault case even without the complainant being available,” Marque Lawyers’ Michael Bradley, who was the lawyer for the alleged victim, told
“But practically speaking, it’s almost impossible and there isn’t any real likelihood that a prosecution could or would go ahead in this particular case.”
In sexual assault cases, especially historical ones like the allegations against Porter, the testimony of the alleged victim is a crucial piece of evidence that is needed to prosecute, given the fact that there is rarely concrete physical evidence or eyewitnesses.
“If you consider the particular nature of sexual assault cases, usually, the central issues are around whether a crime occurred at all, and the connected question of consent. And usually, there are no witnesses or other direct evidence beyond the testimony of the complainant and alleged perpetrator. So without one of them being present and able to give evidence and be cross-examined, it’s an almost insurmountable problem for the prosecution, given that they have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt,” Bradley explained.
But a criminal investigation is not the only course of action in this situation, so it is not as simple as just moving on with life as normal now that the police have closed their investigation.
A Coronial Inquest Into The Woman’s Death
For starters, there could be a coronial inquest into the woman’s death, which is a very real possibility right now.
On Wednesday, South Australian State Coroner David Whittle said that the brief of evidence handed to him in relation to the woman’s death was “incomplete.”
“This was particularly evident having regard to information contained in recent media reports,” he said.
As a result, he has ordered a senior lawyer to gather further evidence which could include letters and unsworn statements from the now-deceased woman to form a greater understanding of the situation at hand.
From there, he will decide whether or not to hold a public inquest into her death “once that investigation has been completed to [his] satisfaction.”
However, a coronial inquest would not investigate the rape allegations.
An Independent Inquiry Into The Allegations
The other major option at hand here, which doesn’t involve the police, is an independent inquiry into the allegations against Christian Porter.
Basically, this would give us some sort of closure either way in the situation, rather than having to just take Porter’s word that he is innocent.
In his lengthy address on Wednesday, Porter asserted that he would be required to “disprove something that didn’t happen” if an independent inquiry were to go ahead, which is simply not the truth.
“I don’t know what it would achieve, other people will be the judge of this, but it would be the first time in Australian history that a public figure or anyone effectively is put on trial in circumstances where they would be required to disprove something that didn’t happen 33 years ago,” he said.
An independent inquiry would give Porter, who fully asserts his innocence, the opportunity to clear his name once and for all.
The inquiry, if it were to go ahead, would not presume that Porter is guilty, and the onus would not be on him to prove his innocence. Rather, a third party would investigate all of the evidence available to determine whether or not Porter is an appropriate fit for the role of Attorney-General (aka the chief law officer of the entire country).
Although Frydenberg is correct in asserting that police are the only body who can determine criminal guilt, Bradley says that the “key issue” at hand is whether or not Porter is still fit to be Attorney-General, given the allegations.
“The question for the Prime Minister is, is it OK to proceed with business as usual and take the case as closed, purely on the basis that Mr Porter says it didn’t happen?” Bradley told the ABC.
“Or do we need to properly test and address the allegation to put it to bed fully, one way or the other, so that we can all move on?”
The calls for an independent inquiry into the allegations against Christian Porter have nothing to do with his legal guilt or innocence (and PEDESTRIAN.TV is not asserting that Porter is guilty) and everything to do with whether a man who stands accused of rape should be able to continue to hold high office without further investigation into the claims.
Just something to think about next time you hear the government claim the matter has been dealt with.
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