The following is the full text of an (unpublished) letter to the editor of the Daily Telegraph from President Anna Katzmann SC concerning Tuesday's story entitled "Sex Trials Warning".
Janet Fife-Yeomansâs piece âSex trials warningâ in Tuesdayâs Daily Telegraph wholly misrepresents the position of the New South Wales Bar Association on cross-examination in sex trials.
Contrary to the statement in that article, the Bar Association did not reject a request from the Attorney General to make it a disciplinary offence to intimidate or harass witnesses in all sex trials. On the contrary, it did precisely the opposite. Changes made last year to the NSW Barristers Rules proscribe such behaviour in all proceedings in which an allegation of sexual assault is made.
The suggestion made in the article that because the new rule applies to âsexual assaultâ cases, indecent assaults or acts of indecency are somehow outside the scope of the rules, or that barristers are entitled to intimidate or harass witnesses making such allegations is entirely false.
At law, the concept of assault covers a range of behaviour; it is not limited to actual physical contact. The new rule covers, not just cases involving sexual intercourse, but all sorts of sexual assaults, including indecent assaults and acts of indecency.ï¿½ï¿½ In any case, improper cross-examination of witnesses â whether or not it offends the terms of the Barristers Rules â can be âa disciplinary offenceâ.
The Bar Association is committed to the fair treatment in cross-examination of complainants in all sex trials.
Anna Katzmann SC
New South Wales Bar Association