An extraordinary $1m damages claim against NSW police and prosecutors who pursued a Sydney man over a string of allegedly false rape and assault claims by his estranged wife has been settled out of court, just days before it was to go to hearing.
The rare capitulation by police and the prosecution marks the end of the man’s five-year ordeal, in which he claims he suffered “severe mental anguish” after his former wife told police he had raped her, three weeks after the pair had split up in May 2015.
In his statement of claim before the NSW Supreme Court, the man, identified only as DC, said the marriage had ended after he discovered his wife — a medical specialist with a serious opioid addiction — was having an affair.
He said when his wife had visited him at the matrimonial home on June 15, 2015, there had been a brief reconciliation and the couple had consensual sex in the lounge room.
The court heard that for the next few days the couple had exchanged loving texts, but the communications quickly became acrimonious and the communication ended.
Two months later, DC was arrested at Sydney airport after returning from Europe on a work trip. It was another month before he was released from jail.
DC’s lawyer, Greg Walsh, told The Weekend Australian that while the confidential settlement of DC’s damages claim was a relief for his client, the past five years of seeking to clear his name had taken “a very heavy toll on him, and he should never have been arrested and charged in the first place”.
He said his client’s experience had been a “stark example of … a pattern of ideological bias” among prosecutors in sexual assault cases.
“There seems to be a trend that anybody accused of sexual assault must be guilty, which completely overrides the presumption of innocence,’ Mr Walsh said.
“These are ideologically driven prosecutions — even in the absence of hard evidence — and it is a considerable concern.”
Mr Walsh told the NSW Supreme Court the police and the prosecution had appeared to be so hellbent on prosecuting his client they had ignored critical evidence that the former wife was lying and had failed to test the woman’s allegations at every stage of their investigation.
This included critical CCTV security vision of the alleged rape when the wife visited DC at their matrimonial home on June 15, 2015.
Mr Walsh said the security vision, which captured the sexual encounter in the lounge room, showed the wife’s version of events had been “wilfully false, including her claim that DC had attacked her on arrival at the home.
The CCTV vision, he said, had provided “substantial evidence” of his client’s innocence. Yet when he bought it to the attention of the Crown, the prosecutor had retaliated by laying more charges against his client, including attempted anal and vaginal rape.
In subsequent communications, he said, the prosecutor had denied ever sighting the CCTV footage, even though it had been included in the police brief provided to the defence.
Mr Walsh said after DC’s wife realised there was CCTV footage, she and other family members had hired a private investigator in an “attempt to compromise or otherwise prejudice” her former husband.
DC has always maintained his former wife had deliberately fabricated the rape claims against him, fearing he would report her to health authorities after he had told one of her medical colleagues she had a “longstanding addiction” to the opiate painkiller Tramadol.
He said his former wife’s addiction had driven her to illegally prescribe drugs for herself, including in his name, and compromised her capacity to perform as a medical practitioner.
After a 10-day trial in the NSW District Court in 2017, all the charges against DC were thrown out after Judge Mark Williams issued a rare Prasad direction, instructing the jury they could find DC not guilty on the grounds there was not enough evidence to justify a conviction.
Judge Williams went on to describe the evidence’s of DC’s wife as “demonstrably false”. He also demanded to know what steps, if any, had been taken by the police and the prosecution to corroborate her complaint.
“When I heard those words from the trial judge, I got quite angry and upset,’ Mr Walsh said. “Why didn’t police and the prosecution just take those basic steps?”