Fake domestic violence claims – what are your rights?
Daily, in Courts all over Australia, we see domestic violence charges withdrawn or dismissed due to the unreliability of alleged victims.
A 40 year old Sydney man spent $200,000 in legal fees over the course of two years fighting to clear his name from rape and assault allegations made by his estranged wife. He was acquitted of the charges by a District Court jury but said he never should have been charged in the first place and has vowed to sue police claiming they ignored crucial evidence (Source: News.com).
It can get really ugly when relationships go sour – especially during a heated divorce process. Not only can children get used as pawns between the combating spouses, men in these proceedings can also become collateral damage with false allegations of domestic violence made against them by their spouse.
False domestic violence claims are more than embarrassing. They can be financially, emotionally and psychologically devastating for all involved – especially for the accused spouse. For example, if someone is charged with domestic violence the person charged could be subjected to an Apprehended Violence Order (“AVO”), which could have employment implications, as well as limit access to property and / or children.
Domestic violence is one of the most prevalent forms of violence against women in Australia. According to ABS’s 2012 personal safety survey (PSS) one in six or 77 per cent of women were victims of partner violence. Former Australian of the year, Rosie Batty, stated that domestic violence is an “epidemic” in her 2016 valedictory speech (Source: ABC Net’s Fact Check on domestic violence). Access Economics cites an estimated 1.6 million Australian women over the age of 15 have experienced domestic violence at some point in their life.
Domestic violence is an urgent priority in NSW and across the country. Women’s rights groups continue to pressure the Government to do more to protect women. In October 2016 federal, state and territory leaders met to tackle domestic violence at a national summit with Council of Australian Governments appointing former Victorian Police Commissioner Ken Lay and Batty as founding members of an advisory panel on violence against women.
However despite all this, not every man in Australia is a wife-beater. There are spouses that are vindictive and will stop at nothing to get even with their husbands, even if it means lying about being a victim of assault or domestic violence. This is particularly troubling because women are continually fighting for recognition for the abuse that many undergo at the hands of their abusive partners. When someone comes along and makes false allegations about being abused, it just sets things back for the real victims of domestic violence who will then be seen as just making things up.
Domestic violence is wrong and happens way more than it should. We need to prosecute the guilty but critics argue not at the expense of the innocent. Everyone in our legal system should be innocent until proven guilty. Sometimes people get charged and found guilty on even the minimal of evidence, which is why advocates say we should not take the rights of men away and assume guilt just because of gender. One way we can do this they say is by ensuring anonymity of the accused during the trial proceedings until the person is proven guilty.
Defending a false domestic violence charge
Just like in any other type of legal matter, you are innocent until proven guilty. The burden is up to the prosecution to prove a crime was committed.
When accusers falsify evidence to the authorities they are perverting the course of justice. If the case makes it to court the accuser would most likely have to give evidence in court, which could mean committing perjury. Both of these are serious criminal offenses that could result in the accuser going to jail.
However, in reality there is not much punishment imposed when someone makes a false domestic violence allegation.
Both men and women should be afforded the same protection under the law. Advocates argue, that “we should not have to take away the rights of men to give women theirs.”
If you have been wrongly accused of domestic violence, your best bet is to contact a criminal lawyer as soon as possible. If you are questioned when tired or under duress you might say something that can later be used against you. There have been many cases that have been successfully brought by the Crown Prosecution Service purely on the basis of an admission in interview at the police station.
For more information on your rights, check out the Men’s Rights Agency.