The firms announced today they would provide free access to legal representation for complainants in sexual assault cases in an effort to reinforce the use and availability of privilege in such cases.
Blakes, Clayton Utz and Freehills, with the NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdry AM QC, the NSW Women’s Legal Services and members of the NSW Bar have started the pilot project to assist keeping the records of complainants in sexual assault cases confidential when their private files are subpoenaed for use in trials.
Cowdry explained the firms’ interest in the issue: “The law does protect privilege but defendants are entitled to subpoena a victim’s counselling document.”
Women's Legal Services NSW Principal Solicitor Janet Loughman said, "After a sexual assault, recovering from the trauma can be greatly assisted by talking to a counsellor. The relationship with a counsellor is built on respect, trust and privacy and some people have refused to continue with counselling when they learn that the counsellor's notes could be disclosed to the Defence."
Six cases, involving children and people with intellectual disabilities as victims, have so far been referred to the project.
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