My matter is for the Attorney-General.
It follows the recent County Court decision, in a judge-only trial, that found Jackson Williams not guilty of the charge of assault with intent to commit a sexual offence.
Williams was charged after attacking a nurse in the Melbourne CBD in October 2018.
Thankfully, in the midst of that attack, he was scared off by bystanders who rushed to the woman’s aid.
However, in the interim, as CCTV footage of the incident shows, Williams ambushed and dragged the young woman into a secluded laneway, applied a choke hold, threw her to the ground, forced himself on top of her as she struggled, and then straddled her.
Quite understandably in these circumstances, there has been enormous community outrage in recent days in the wake of the judge’s decision. I deeply share those sentiments, too, and am struggling to make much sense of this outcome.
To put it mildly, the not guilty verdict certainly gives rise to many different questions and concerns.
One of those is the potential difficulty of proving this charge given that it is based on proving intent. I will probably speak to this general problem (about establishing intent) in more detail in another adjournment matter soon.
Another of my questions here surrounds the fact that, although assault with intent to commit a sexual offence came into effect as a charge in 2015, it’s still incredibly difficult to find detailed arrest and sentencing data in the public domain for this specific offence.
The then Attorney-General Clark said, in 2014, that the aims behind the introduction of this and other associated charges at the time were to better protect the community from the crimes of rape and sexual assault, hold perpetrators to account and provide support to victims.
I obviously support those objectives wholeheartedly – and therefore think it’s now worth urgently reviewing the practical utility (or otherwise) of this charge, in particular.
Accordingly, the action I seek from the current Attorney-General is the provision of information showing how many people in total in Victoria have been charged with assault with intent to commit a sexual offence – as well as a breakdown of the sentencing outcomes for all of those brought to court on this offence.
I would also be interested to know if the Attorney-General is aware of any proposals or suggestions to potentially alter the nature of the assault with intent to commit a sexual offence charge in any way, with a view to potentially making it less difficult to prosecute in the future.