Wrongfully accused of sexual assault? It happens.

Accused finger pointing - wrongfully accused of sexual assault

Wrongfully accused of sexual assault

Whilst rarely spoken about, false accusations of sexual assault do happen.  They are not insignificant, or an anomaly and they matter. Even if the accused person is found not guilty, being wrongfully accused of a sexual assault can destroy their life. From lasting psychological damage, loss of employment or career opportunities, finances for legal bills to broken relationships and lost friends, false accusations of sexual assault do cause real harm, even before the prospect of imprisonment is considered.

How common are false claims of sexual assault?

The Australian Bureau of Statistics website shows that of 787 cases prosecuted in the NSW District Court for sexual assault and related offences in the 2020-2021 financial year:

  • 381 offenders pleaded guilty.
  • 162 accused persons were found guilty at trial.
  • 166 accused persons were found not guilty at trial.
  • 78 cases against accused persons were withdrawn by the Office of the Director of Prosecutions after committal but before trial.

These statistics reveal that 30% of the sexual assault charges committed to the District Court were withdrawn or a jury was not satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that an accused person was guilty.

Australian Bureau of Statistics website show reveals that NSW Police or the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions withdrew a further 234 sexual assault and related offences in the Local Court.

The above figures do not include sexual assault allegations that are reported to the police but that the police do not prosecute.

The NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research reports that 3,081 allegations of adult sexual assaults were reported to the police in 2021. Comparing these statistics with the Australian Bureau of Statistics figures, it is evident that the number of reported cases of sexual assault is significantly less than the number of prosecutions the police commence for sexual assaults.

There are two main reasons that an allegation of a sexual assault will not result in the initiation of criminal charges. The first is that person making the complaint does not want to proceed with the charges. The second is that the police do not consider the allegation to be credible, i.e., they believe the complaint to be false.

Do statistics about sexual assault allegations tell the full story?

No, statistics about sexual assault allegations do not tell the full story. The NSW Police and Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions must come clean about their reasons for not initiating proceedings for alleged sexual assaults or withdrawing proceedings for sexual assaults after they have been commenced. Only then will the public begin to get a clearer picture of the prevalence of false complaints of sexual assaults.

Wrongful sexual assault allegations destroy lives

Imprisonment, whether on remand when bail is refused, or after being wrongfully convicted, is not the only way that lives are destroyed when someone is falsely accused of sexual assault.

An allegation of sexual assault is very difficult to keep quiet and for those close to you to not find out about. Even if a criminal charge of sexual assault is not reported in the media, it will show up on any criminal record check while the proceedings are in foot and people may be contractually required to disclose any charges to their employers.

Often, all it takes is the accusation itself for those around you to decide you’re guilty, even if you are innocent. There is no way of protecting your reputation if you are accused of sexual assault.

This can have a devastating impact on all aspects of your life.  It can cause relationships to break down, marriages to fall apart, lost friends, and loss of contact with family members.  At work, it can result in being ostracised by colleagues, and missed career progression opportunities, and for those in some roles particularly where they are in a position of trust, it can even mean they are not allowed to work until court proceedings are finalised.  In some cases, this can take years. The impact financially can be devastating.

What to do if you are charged with sexual assault or any other sex offence

You can read more about what to do if you are charged with sexual assault here.

Contact the expert criminal lawyers at Australian Criminal Law Group if you are charged with sexual assault. We are Sydney’s best sexual assault lawyers.

Australian Criminal Law Group offers free first consultations with offices in Parramatta, Sydney, and Blacktown or via video call. Contact us on 02 8815 8167 or via website enquiry so we can start building your defence today.


Australian Bureau of Statistics, Statistics for family, domestic, sexual violence, physical assault, partner emotional abuse, child abuse, sexual harassment, stalking and safety, Reference period 2016, published  8/11/2017 (accessed 6 July 2022 at 14:50)  https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/people/crime-and-justice/personal-safety-australia/2016

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Recorded Crime Statistics quarterly update March 2022, Published June 2022 (accessed 5 June 2022 at 15:02) https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_publication/Pub_Summary/RCS-Quarterly/RCS2022Q1-PageSummary.aspx

NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research, NSW Criminal Courts Statistics Jan 2017-Dec 2021, Published June 2022 (accessed 5 June 2022 at 15:02) https://www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au/Pages/bocsar_publication/Pub_Summary/CCS-Annual/Criminal-Court-Statistics-Dec-2021.aspx

This information is intended as a general guide to law only.  It should not be relied on as legal advice, and it is recommended that you speak with a qualified lawyer about your situation.

Australian Criminal Law Group and its suppliers make every reasonable effort to ensure the accuracy and validity of the information provided on its web pages. At the time of updating, this information was correct, however, given the laws in NSW and Australia are continually changing, the Australian Criminal Law Group makes no warranties or representations as to its accuracy.

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