The Herald Sun recently published an article entitled ‘Tradie demanding answers over failed rape trial’ authored by Mark Buttler and Andrew Rule.
The article reports the views of the acquitted man, Phoenix Cooper, namely that the OPP failed in our obligations of disclosure to him, and that the case ought not have run because of ‘obviously flimsy evidence’.
It is incorrect to assert that a prosecution lawyer withheld information from Phoenix Cooper’s legal team. The OPP made full and proper disclosure of all relevant material to Mr Cooper’s legal team prior to his trial. It then became a matter for Mr Cooper’s legal team to determine what, if anything, they chose to do with this material. At trial, neither the accused nor the prosecution relied on this material.
It is not the role of the OPP to determine guilt or innocence. It is the role of the OPP to assess the evidence in the case and determine whether it meets the prosecution test – that there are reasonable prospects of conviction; and that the prosecution is in the public interest. This determination is made after proper and full analysis of the evidence by both an OPP lawyer and a Crown Prosecutor. It then rightfully became a matter for a jury to determine whether Mr Cooper is guilty or not guilty.
It should also be noted that a Magistrate made a decision to commit Mr Cooper to stand trial. At no time prior to the trial did Mr Cooper’s legal team ask that the matter be discontinued. At no time during the trial, did Mr Cooper’s legal team assert that he had no case to answer or that the matter should be stayed as an abuse of process.
With regard to the assertions made about the solicitor who conducted the case, all solicitors involved carried out their obligations with care and diligence and worked closely with a Senior Crown Prosecutor in making decisions about both appropriate disclosure and the strength of the prosecution case.
The assertions made about victims of crime are disappointing and out of touch with community values and sentiment. We know that coming forward with allegations of this kind is often very difficult for victims of sexual offending. To see this kind of commentary after a matter has gone through a jury trial, must be extremely disappointing for victims.