Area of Law – Sexual Offences

An Article about Motive of complainant for lying

Sexual assault (rape) cases- motive for lying of complainant
We handle a lot of sexual assault and rape cases. Our clients successfully defend a lot of these charges before juries.

When you deal with these cases regularly, you get a feel for what the jury are trying to work out. One of those things is often whey would the complainant lie.

It is a basic principle that the Crown have to prove there case beyond reasonable doubt. The defendant does not know whether the reason for a complainant lying is one of the many that you encounter such as, being put up to it by someone else, wanting to sue for compensation, or fantasy. It would therefore be grossly unfair if you had to explain why you thought the complainant was lying.

In practical terms, if you do have some idea why they are doing it, you would tell the jury about that reason and provide whatever evidence you can.

Below is some law on the issue, obviously if you are charged with a sex assault you need to give us a ring straight away and get some proper and informed advice.

Questioning as to a motive to lie

“Prosecution can not ask questions of an accused as to what motives he or she might suggest Crown witnesses had to give false testimony against him or her.”

R V Palmer (1998)193 CLR 1

“The law in this State is now that any witness and particularly an accused who gives evidence ought not to be asked in cross examination whether another witness is telling lies, or has invented something. Cross examination of that kind is impermissible because it may deflect the jury from a proper assessment of the credibility of the Crown witnesses, and of the accused in accordance with the burden and standard of proof borne by the Crown”

R V Bucklet [2004] VSCA 185

This is most often seen in sex assault cases, where Police ask in interviews why the complainant would lie. That line of questioning should be removed before a jury hear the record of interview.

Speculating as to motive for lying in closing

“A prosecutor can not in a closing ask rhetorical questions asking, who might have committed the crime other than the accused. To do so reverses the onus of proof.”

R v Russo [2004] VSCA 206


Date: 09/01/2009