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Police defend payment to alleged rape victim -

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Police defend payment to alleged rape victim

Emily Bourke reported this story on Friday, August 28, 2009 12:34:00

BRENDAN TREMBATH: In Victoria, the police are defending a decision to pay money to an alleged rape
victim after a bungled investigation.

The woman at the centre of the case has repeatedly denied she accepted an offer of $20,000 on the
condition she walk away.

But police say the money was paid under what was at the time a confidential agreement.

The settlement has raised questions about whether such deals should be kept secret.

Emily Bourke reports.

EMILY BOURKE: The police investigation into the alleged rape of a Melbourne woman known as "Kate"
was riddled with errors and delays.

The Office of Police Integrity found police waited two days before visiting the crime scene,
relevant witnesses were not interviewed, the suspect's DNA was not collected and the master and
back-up copies of the police interview with the suspect went missing and have never been found.

Police admitted Kate's case fell through the cracks. Victoria Police apologised. One officer was
disciplined and two others have since resigned from the force.

Police also offered Kate $20,000. She says she rejected the offer and instead tried unsuccessfully
to sue the officers involved.

A subsequent settlement was reached. Its terms were confidential until now.

Victoria Police has this morning issued a statement defending and detailing that agreement.

EXTRACT FROM VICTORIA POLICE STATEMENT (voiceover): Victoria Police apologised at the time in
relation to its investigation. Legal advice provided to Victoria Police said it had no legal
liability in relation to the matter.

However due to some exceptional circumstances and as a show of good faith we offered the woman
$20,000. She refused the offer and engaged in legal action against Victoria Police. That action was
unsuccessful however Victoria Police did not choose to pursue costs even though we were within our
rights to do so.

EMILY BOURKE: The police statement goes on:

EXTRACT FROM VICTORIA POLICE STATEMENT (voiceover): In a further show of good faith and for
compassionate reasons Victoria Police again offered the woman $20,000 because we believed it was
the right thing to do.

This offer was accepted and did include a confidentiality clause which is standard in government
litigation.

EMILY BOURKE: But Kate has hit back, speaking to Neil Mitchell on commercial radio station 3AW.

KATE: Um, no they didn't come back with a second offer, no.

NEIL MITCHELL: So they've only once offered you 20 grand?

KATE: They offered me once. That's correct, yes.

NEIL MITCHELL: And you rejected it?

KATE: And I rejected it.

NEIL MITCHELL: They say they didn't...

KATE: Anyway this is stuff that's going to be sorted out with my lawyer anyway. I don't need
anybody's help.

I mean if they paid it to me and it's supposed to be confident, why are they talking about it?

NEIL MITCHELL: Yeah but you're saying they didn't pay it to you, aren't you?

KATE: Well yeah. I'll stick to that story, yes.

EMILY BOURKE: Aside from the claim and counter claim, the nature of these agreements has sparked
debate within the legal fraternity.

Senior counsel Dyson Hore-Lacy says there is a steady stream of cases being brought against police.

DYSON HORE-LACY: They might be assaults, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution where there's no
reason to prosecute, all sorts of mischievous behaviour during an investigation.

There might be, I recall one case where a police officer made a person blow into a torch,
pretending it was the latest in technology. And there was a settlement I recall in that particular
matter.

But as I say they are many and varied; all sorts of wrongs.

EMILY BOURKE: But he says the payment of so-called hush money could pervert the course of justice.

DYSON HORE-LACY: Hush money implies that you are paying somebody to keep quiet about what happened.

Now that can be very dangerous. If it's in fact encouraging people or forcing people not to
complain about a crime it can constitute an attempt to pervert the course of justice or perversion
of the course of justice.

EMILY BOURKE: But the president of the Law Institute of Victoria Danny Barlow says disclosure could
be counterproductive.

DANNY BARLOW: I mean obviously we want transparency in our crime enforcement bodies.

On the other hand people would argue that if everything had to be transparent there is no way that
these civil actions would resolve because no-one would be willing to make any offers for fear that
it would be suggested that they've admitted some wrong doing because often when settlements are
made there is no offer of wrong doing. It's done for purely commercial reasons to avoid the costs
involved in a court proceeding for example.

EMILY BOURKE: But retired Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent has told ABC Local Radio in Melbourne
there is a public interest in knowing.

FRANK VINCENT: The manner in which a matter is investigated ought to be quite separate from any
negotiation into which you enter with the person concerned.

If the work is not done properly then that's a matter of considerable community concern and
interest and that has to be looked at independently of any compromise you come to with an
individual who is affected by it.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The retired Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent ending Emily Bourke's report.