TWO MORE high profile rape cases collapsed in New South Wales last week, becoming the latest matters to spark criticism of the way the justice system handles sexual assault matters.
The long-running cases against admitted fraudster Tomi Nanevski collapsed after witnesses refused to give evidence, following the adjournment of the trial which was scheduled for April.
“Without the police witnesses they wouldn’t have a case,” said Karen Willis, manager of the NSW Rape Crisis Centre.
“The issue is one that’s a constant issue in sexual assault matters — that they take so long and there can be so many delays and recalls and committals and appeals that over and over again complainants get worn-out by the process and my guess is that’s exactly what’s happened here,” Willis said.
Nanevski was originally charged with robbery and sexual assault offences against 15 women between January 2002 and April 2004 when he was arrested.
Police alleged he posed as a wealthy businessman and lured women to hotel rooms before sexually assaulting them and obtaining money by deception.
Many of the women were contacted through escort agencies or answered advertisements placed by Nanevski.
Nanevski denied the sexual assault charges but pleaded guilty to obtaining money by deception, dishonestly obtaining $58,000 from nine victims, and attempting to obtain money from another three women.
The collapse of the cases against Nanevski follow the collapse of another high profile rape case last month.
The victim in that instance was one of the women attacked by the gang rapists led by Bilal Skaf. She refused to give evidence at a retrial of one of her rapists telling police: “I am sick of getting ready to go to court when I am promised it will definitely go ahead and it is called off again because of the defence.”
Her decision to withdraw from the case against her attacker drew public attention to the plight of rape victims who often spend years reliving their ordeal through the trial process.
Willis recently met with the NSW Attorney-General John Hatzistergos to express concern about how the justice system was dealing with rape cases and is hopeful that improvements to the process will soon be made.
“There were two things that were really clear in the discussion. One was that he was very interested in doing whatever was possible to decrease the re-traumatisation of victims through the criminal justice process.
“The sorts of things he talked about there included decreasing delays, changing some laws and stopping some of the more atrocious cross-examination processes. And in line with that he was quite appalled and wanted to put a stop to the unethical behaviour of lawyers in some sexual assault matters,” she said.