- promoting a clearer understanding of men's experience -


MENZ.org.nz Logo

COSA Information kit for men subject to criminal charges resulting from false allegations

These Information and Suggestion Sheets have been compiled from the suggestions and experience of COSA members plus written material from a number of sources. They are designed to assist those falsely accused of sexual offences in dealing with the social and legal consequences of such allegations. While this material is offered in good faith, COSA accepts no responsibility for the outcome to individuals using this material in to make decisions on how to act.

Associated facts and factors

What to do if you fear you might be arrested on false charges of sex offending

What to do if you are arrested on false charges of sexual offending

Explanation of terms and court proceedings

1. Associated facts and factors

a) Whenever an allegation of a sexual offence is made, it will be:

  • true
  • false
  • partly true (possibly an exaggerated distorted version of a real event)

b) False allegations are either:

  • knowingly made ie intentional and deliberate lies, or
  • mistakenly made ie result from women and children coming to wrongly believe they have been victims of sexual attacks

c) Motives for deliberate false allegations include:

  • To prevent an ex-spouse or partner having access or custody to children from the relationship
  • Revenge eg complainant bitter and angry after unrequited romantic interest; rejection from a potential partner or a failed relationship
  • Teenager retribution against overly strict parents
  • An untrue statement to a friend or family member which has been reported to the authorities, believed and acted on and become increasingly difficult to retract
  • Monetary gain – the complainant stands to gain financially if the accused is convicted
  • Extortion, where one party has threatened to falsely report the other as having committed a sexual offence, unless a sum of money passes hands.

d) Situations where a complainant sincerely but wrongly believes she has been sexually abused include:

  • Allegations made on the basis of memories recovered during psychotherapy
  • fathers have been falsely accused by their estranged partner of sexually abusing or raping their children in the context of acrimonious custody or access disputes;

e) Changes made in the law between 1985 and 1995 numerous changes which favour the complainant include:

  • Removal of the requirement for judges to caution juries about the dangers of conviction in the absence of corroboration;
  • Abolition of the law of spousal immunity in rape (now acknowledges rape within marriage);
  • Introduction of the new offence of sexual violation, which recognises the seriousness of sexual assaults other than rape;
  • Allowing the conviction of children under 14 with the charge of rape;
  • An honest belief of the defendant that consent was given by the complainant no longer being accepted as a defence if the belief is said to be "unreasonable";
  • Restrictions on asking the complainant about her sexual experiences with others;
  • Taking the complainant’s views into account when considering bail;
  • Use of victim-impact reports at sentencing.

2. What to do if you fear you might be arrested on false charges of sex offending

a) Treat all allegations very seriously – do not assume that because you are innocent, you will not be arrested and charged.

b) Contact a competent and experienced lawyer immediately and ensure that he or she will be available should you be arrested.

c) If you have some information about the nature of the false allegation, prepare a date – time line of all relevant events in chronological order. Amongst other things, this could include the following:

  • dates of all relevant events, contacts etc between you and the complainant(s)
  • details of initial allegations (when, to whom, circumstances)
  • details of possible witnesses in your defence

d) Keep detailed records of all relevant events, conversations etc with anyone connected with the case. Where possible, have a reliable witness at all pertinent meetings, interviews and phone conversations.

e) If you are arrested, be co-operative and courteous. If you are accused of crimes you did not commit, deny them. However, consider very carefully before giving your defence to the arresting officers. Be aware that information you provide may be taken out of context, or the nature of the allegations may change if you provide proof that you could not have committed the alleged offence at the time and place accused. Apart from giving your name and contact details, you have the right to remain silent.

f) Be aware that you have the right to request that your lawyer be present before answering any questions.

g) On your first court appearance, usually you can enter no plea. Ensure your lawyer requests bail and name suppression.

h) Join a support group (COSA or equivalent) which can help by:

  • letting you know you are not alone with this problem
  • pooling information and strategies of how to deal with these issues
  • assisting you deal with the emotional consequences of false allegations such as grief, anger, frustration, bewilderment, bitterness.

3. What to do if you are arrested on false charges of sexual offending.

a) Treat all allegations very seriously – do not assume that because you are innocent, common sense and innocence will necessarily prevail.

b) Hire a competent and experienced barrister immediately. The sooner you take appropriate legal action, the greater your chance of avoiding wrongful conviction and imprisonment.

c) Avoid legal aid if you can because:

  • in general you cannot have the lawyer of your choice and may be allocated one who is inexperienced or not competent in this area
  • legal aid only pays for a few hours’ preparation which is seldom sufficient in these complex sorts of cases
  • you have much more chance of winning at an initial hearing than at an appeal if all goes wrong.

d) Prepare a date – time line of all relevant events in chronological order. Update this often. Amongst other things, this could include the following:

  • dates of all relevant events, contacts etc between you and the complainant(s)
  • details of initial allegations (when, to whom, circumstances)
  • dates and circumstances of all interventions undergone by the complainant, such as assessments by doctors, social workers, psychologists, counselling and therapy, police interviews (include name and position of professionals involved, if known)

e) Collect and maintain in an ordered file any relevant documentation which might support the information in your time-date line. This could include:

  • Family records (eg diaries; financial records; letters and greeting cards; photos; school reports).
  • Evidence pertaining to your whereabouts and possible alibis when the alleged events took place (eg work log books; passport; bank statements with eftpos records etc).
  • Evidence of possible contemporaneous events connected to the allegations (eg newspaper items; meteorological reports).
  • Records from doctors; schools; Children and Young Person’s Service or other relevant services You may need to use the Official Information Act to obtain some of this material.
  • Supportive affidavits and character references from friends and family.

f) Keep detailed records of all relevant events, conversations etc with anyone connected with the case. Where possible, have a reliable witness at all meetings, interviews and phone conversations. Ideally, after each meeting, write to the person you dealt with, listing the main points discussed and asking for him/her to reply if you have made any mistakes. Send your original copy by registered mail; request a receipt; and keep a copy.

g) Educate yourself to issues relating to testimony, suggestibility and memory and the nature of true and false allegations.

f) Join a support men’s group (COSA or equivalent) which can help by:

  • letting you know you are not alone with this problem
  • pooling information and strategies of how to deal with these issues
  • assisting you deal with the emotional consequences of false allegations such as grief, anger, frustration, bewilderment, bitterness.

g) Try to find out if the complainant has been exposed to possible factors or influences which might contribute to this allegation. These could include:

  • complainant has made false sexual abuse allegations against others in the past
  • complainant has been attending counselling prior to allegation
  • complainant has been in contact with someone else who has recently made a sexual abuse allegation
  • complainant has been significantly exposed to self-help books (eg Courage to Heal), or other reading material, films, TV etc relating to sexual abuse allegations.

h) Where the complainant is a child, these could include:

  • allegation initially not arising from child but a concerned adult who has interpreted the child’s behaviour as "indicating abuse"
  • exposure to a child sexual abuse prevention programme at school or pre-school
  • exposure to other abuse prevention material such as books or videos
  • exposure to interviews and interrogations which are leading and suggestive

i) Apply for copies of all relevant documentation especially medical reports, social worker and psychologist reports, counselling / therapy notes and transcripts of evidential interviews. When watching the videotaped recordings of evidential interviews, compare these with the typed transcripts and note any discrepancies.

j) Look for possible motives for the complainant making a false allegation.

k) While steadfastly insisting on your innocence and being firm with your requests, maintain a co-operative manner with police, social workers and others involved in the case. Avoid angry outbursts with the authorities as this may be used against you. Be careful of what you say as this may be misconstrued and used against you. Give details of your defence (eg what you were doing etc at the time the events are alleged to have occurred) only to your lawyer. You may find that if you give CYPS or the police information proving that the alleged events could not have happened, that those allegations get dropped and are replaced by others which you might have more difficulty defending.

l) Provide your lawyer with the information he needs to fight your case, including your time-date line; other relevant records and the names and details of potential witnesses and character references. Present this material in a concise organised way to make it easier for him to understand and access.

m) Consider employing a private investigator. This has the advantages of:

  • Cost:the hourly rate much lower than a lawyer
  • Effectiveness: a good investigator (especially if ex-policeman) has knowledge and skills of examining evidence and interviewing potential witnesses
  • Safety: potential witnesses are not contaminated by unskilled inquiry

n) Potential witnesses should not be approached / interviewed by defendant or his family and friends for the following reasons:

  • They may not have appropriate interviewing skills
  • They may not know type of information to seek
  • It may appear in court that defendant is trying to manipulate or influence the witnesses
  • Any discussion with a witness is potential evidence, and if poorly done, under cross-examination may be twisted to be used against the defendant.

o) Consider using expert witnesses to analyse the evidential interviews and other records for possible influences, leading questions etc which may have given rise to false allegations. Consider using expert witnesses to challenge the psychological and medical evidence.

p) If you are innocent of all charges, consider very carefully before you agree to a plea bargain. You may be put under pressure to decide to plea guilty to a much lesser charge in exchange for having more serious charges dropped and receiving a non-custodial sentence (ie you avoid going to jail). Once you have pleaded guilty to even minor offences, you are a convicted sex offender and this has potential implications with respect to your life in the future including your employment and place of residence.

q) If you are innocent of all allegations, consider very carefully before you agree to attending a sex offender’s treatment programme (such as the STOP programme) in order to have charges dropped. Such a programme demands that you confess and express remorse, which is firstly difficult for an innocent person to do, and secondly qualifies you as guilty (with the same implications as above).

4. Explanation of New Zealand legal terms and court proceedings.

Acquitted
Declared not guilty.
Affidavit
A written statement, confirmed by oath, and witnessed by a Justice of the Peace or barrister, to be used as evidence in court.
Appeal
Court Court reconsidering the decision of a lower court with regard to verdict or sentence (looks as to whether there has been a miscarriage of justice).
Arrested
Taken into custody by police.
Bail
Security to ensure you appear for trial. May be guarantee of money; sometimes bail conditions include handing over your passport or checking in at your local police station on a regular basis.
Barrister
A lawyer who can represent you in the District, High or Appeal Courts.
Brief of evidence
Summary of facts drawn up for your lawyer.
Call-over
requirement to attend court, especially one week prior to trial.
Charge
Accusation upon which you will be brought up for trail.
Charge sheet
Police station record of who you are and what charges are brought against you.
Complainant
Person making the accusation against you.
Conviction
Proved or found guilty.
Counsel
Legal adviser, usually barrister.
Custody
Imprisonment.
Defendant
Person facing proceedings in a court of law (the accused)
Depositions
Pre-trial hearing where police are supposed to submit all evidence. Don’t count on it.
Discovery
Police are supposed to give all information they have to defence. (See above).
Discharged
Have charges dropped (usually prior to trial).
District Court
Lower court of justice.
Expert witness
Psychologist, Psychiatrist, Doctor or other professional.
Hearing
A listening to evidence or pleadings in court (presided over by a justice of the peace or judge).
High Court
The highest (supreme) court of justice – for serious offences
Judgement
The official decision of the court.
Jury
12 people who assess the evidence presented by the court and give their decision in a verdict upon which the court (usually the judge) will give judgement
Pre-trial hearing
A hearing before your trial where your lawyer argues to have the charges dropped (for example under a 347 application) or for other changes in proceedings.
Prosecutor
The lawyer conducting the criminal proceedings against the defendant.
Remand at large
Accused set free after depositing bail money at court.
Remand in custody
Hold in prison until further inquiry or sentencing.
Sentence
Punishment given to person found guilty in a criminal trial.
Severance
Where there is more than one complainant or defendant, the charges may be divided into separate trials.
Solicitor
A lawyer who can advise you and instruct a barrister for you but who cannot appear for you in the District, High or Appeal Courts.
347 application
Defence lawyer asks for the case to be dismissed because of lack of evidence, undue delay, or other procedural errors by prosecution.
Transcript
Written copy of what was said on an videotape interview or during a court proceeding.
Trial
Actual court case.
Verdict
Decision of the jury (ie guilty or not guilty).
Witness
Person giving sworn testimony in the court room.

Powered by WordPress

Site Meter