NSW director of public prosecutions, Sally Dowling SC, has ordered a comprehensive review of all sexual assault cases listed for trial.

Judicial Concerns

The review stems from remarks made by District Court Judge Peter Whitford SC, who expressed concerns about the prosecution’s approach in sexual assault cases. He said that “time and time again” cases were being prosecuted “without apparent regard to whether there might be reasonable prospects of securing a conviction.” Alleged victims were being put through “anxiety, stress, humiliation and distress” and defendants were subjected to “inappropriate stress and disruption,” he said.

Over the past year, similar concerns have been voiced by members of the judiciary, signalling a growing rift between the legal branches. High-profile cases, such as that of Martinez, where a defendant spent eight months in custody before being acquitted, have fueled debates over prosecutorial discretion and the threshold for initiating cases.

Case Audit

The ODPP (Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions) has staunchly defended its practices who maintain that conviction rates for sexual assault cases have remained consistent, refuting claims of systemic deficiencies. However, the ODPP has initiated a thorough case audit, led by senior crown prosecutors. This comprehensive review aims to ensure compliance with established guidelines and restore confidence in the integrity of the legal process.

While the dispute continues to unfold, Attorney-General Michael Daley has said he wouldn’t intervene, reinforcing the independence of the judiciary: “Are you suggesting I should intervene in a complaint to the judicial commission or wander on down there with my wig on and defend the judge or what?” he said. “It’s not my role.”


Overall, every sexual assault matter set for trial in NSW will be reviewed to ensure prosecuting guidelines have been met, which may give rise to similar reviews in other states and territories throughout Australia. 

Our team specialise in criminal law. Our role is to sit down with you and work out the strategy that will get you the best possible result. If you have any questions about this article or any other topic of law, please call our team of experts on 1300 066 669.