The NSW Police deputy commissioner rejected a request by sex crime detectives to travel to South Australia to interview the woman who levelled historical rape allegations against Christian Porter, documents show.
The then attorney-general last month launched defamation action against the ABC for publishing what he says are “false accusations” he was the subject of rape allegations stemming back to 1988. Mr Porter strenuously denies the allegations.
The SA-based woman at the centre of the allegations took her own life in June.
The complainant originally reported the matter to SA Police in November 2019 and the allegations were passed on to NSW Police’s sex crimes squad.
She briefly spoke with detectives while in Sydney in February 2020 but wished to conduct the interview in SA so she could have a support person available.
In March 2020, two NSW detectives sought to travel to SA to speak with the woman and were on 10 March approved for travel by Detective Superintendent John Kerlatec, the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad commander.
However, NSW Police Deputy Commissioner David Hudson three days later rejected the request to travel due to COVID-19 protocols.
It was the sole application by NSW detectives to travel to SA to interview the woman. NSW Police decided that due to the complexities of the case, it was not in the woman’s interests to provide a statement remotely.
Police Commissioner Mick Fuller in budget estimates last month confirmed Mr Hudson rejected the request to travel, and the documents related to that decision were provided to the NSW upper house on Friday.
It came after the NSW Greens ordered the papers in a parliamentary motion.
In justifying his decision, Mr Hudson wrote: “Insufficient detail provided by (State Crime Command) to justify why this travel cannot be deferred in accordance with Commissioner’s Direction and government policy precluding international travel and restricting interstate travel to operational necessity.”
The NSW detectives’ travel itinerary outlined a four-day trip to Adelaide from 15 to 18 March which included use of a hire car.
NSW Police say Mr Porter’s accuser did not wish to issue her statement to SA Police and preferred to liaise with NSW investigators.
Police were informed one day before the woman’s death on 24 June, 2020 that she no longer wished to proceed with the investigation.
“It’s hard to believe that NSW Police rejected all three opportunities to take a statement from the complainant by travel to SA, by videolink and through SA Police,” Greens MP David Shoebridge said in a statement to SBS News.
Specifically, Mr Shoebridge said Mr Hudson’s decision to deny the travel request is “deeply troubling”.
“I can’t imagine something more important or essential for the NSW Police than investigating an alleged sexual assault,” he said.
“The lack of reasoning is even harder to understand given the travel application made it clear the person of interest in the investigation had a ‘very high profile’.”
Since the publication of the ABC report, Mr Porter – a West Australian MP – has changed roles from attorney-general to industry minister.
The 26 February report referred to an unnamed federal cabinet minister but Mr Porter revealed himself as the subject of the allegations on 3 March.
Mr Porter in his defamation action against the ABC is seeking aggravated damages, costs and removal of the article and related material on the internet.
His legal team earlier this month argued Mr Porter was readily identifiable in the ABC report despite its reference to an unnamed cabinet minister.
If you or someone you know is impacted by family and domestic violence or sexual assault, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit 1800RESPECT.org.au. In an emergency, call 000.
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