Statement by Civil Liberties Australia on Operation Vest by NSW Police
We have been asked by the media to comment on an apparent new method of recording sexual assault in NSW anonymously. We chose not to comment to the reporter so our comments would not be cherry-picked for shortening reasons: instead, we run them here in full.
An outline of the new NSW Police system, as described to CLA, is below our comments:
Comment by CLA 25 March 2021:
Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) supports a way of ensuring more convictions for sexual assault, a lot more convictions.
But reporting someone anonymously is not justice, it’s uncontrolled vigilantism.
The basic concept of easier reporting is well worth pursuing and developing, but not if it only involves what has been described so far: secret files held secretly by police without any chance for a person to even know they have been reported.
How does a person prove their innocence when they don’t even know that the police have them on file as “guilty”?
Obviously police would presume guilt, rather than innocence, which is not what our legal system is designed for, or how it works. But police would have to presume guilt to develop their promised “targeted strategy”, whatever that means. It sounds like entrapment.
A secret report – without any proof, or further action, or conviction – would stay on the person’s national police database file for life, whether it was true or false.
The system as outlined doesn’t “normalise reporting sexual assault” so much as it creates a nether world where anyone can secretly blacken somebody’s name without having to follow up, provide any admissible evidence, or do anything more than fill in an online form.
Imagine if we had the same system for people reporting bad mothering or fathering, so that anyone who wanted to could secretly report a mother or father for mistreatment of a child. You can see how two or three people could easily get together to abuse the system to misreport someone they didn’t like.
But you wouldn’t even need two or three people: the moment the first report was made secretly, the mother or father’s name would be mud…for life, in a police database which no-one has the right to access to make corrections if police have got it wrong.
And, without doubt, police databases holding the information would be hacked, and leaked.
ENDS CLA statement
Precis of a news report from The Australian 24 March 2021 by Ellie Dudley:
‘Operation Vest’…The heart of the operation is the Sexual Assault Reporting Option (SARO) questionnaire which enables victims to share their story with police without creating a formal report.
The informal report created by SARO will not initiate a criminal investigation, but will be used by police to develop strategies which target perpetrators.
If the victim chooses not to proceed to the courts, their report informs police of a potential offender in the community, and could assist in future investigations.
(CLA notes that nowhere in the media report is the word “alleged” used in relation to the purported “perpetrator”. The report assumes that in all cases the secret report made to police would be accurate, true and without malice).
We were supplied this URL, but have been unable to access the original story on the newspaper’s website: https://www.theaustralian.com.au/nation/new-method-of-sexual-assault-reporting-to-kill-the-culture-of-victim-blaming-chanel-contos/news-story/eb3cd1