We have set out below, a number of different scenarios which may arise where one student has informed the University that another person at the university has sexually assaulted them. We explain how the recommendations set out above would apply to those scenarios and what you can expect from the University.

Scenario 1

What happens if I do not want to report the incident to the police?

The University should ensure that you are provided with support and information. This should include facilitating access to relevant counselling, medical or legal services, including referral to the Canberra Rape Crisis Centre (CRCC). The CRCC is the specialist service in Canberra for victims of sexual assault providing crisis and ongoing counselling support, information about medical options and legal options. The University should provide you with information about the options available to the student. This information should include a description of the relevant processes and procedures and the types of  sanctions available, for example:

  • make a report to the police
  • not report the matter to the police but request that the University consider the case under its Discipline Rule / Enterprise Agreement
  • take no further action.

Once you have made a decision about the next step then, save in exceptional circumstances, the University should seek to act in accordance with your wishes. Exceptional circumstances may include where a report to the police is necessary to protect you (or others) from harm or to prevent a further crime taking place.

The University should consider whether any precautionary action needs to be taken. Precautionary measures could include separating you from the accused person. The University should ensure that support and assistance is provided to you and the accused person. The support measures for each student should be provided separately meaning the students should not be provided with the same counsellor.

Scenario 2

What will the University do if I report the incident to the police and a criminal investigation is commenced?

The University should ensure that support and assistance is provided to you and the accused person. Support measures for each student should be provided separately. The University should ensure any necessary precautionary measures are put in place.

The University should keep you updated about the progress of the criminal investigation if advised by police and review the position at regular intervals (or any time that there is a material change or development).

The review should include consideration of whether any changes need to be made to the support/assistance given to you and the accused person and/or to any precautionary measures that have been put in place. Precautionary measures could include new measures being put in place or current measures being amended or removed. If the University is advised the accused person is failing to comply with the terms of bail or other court ordered measures, the University may consider what precautionary measures it can put in place, including temporary suspension.

Save for taking precautionary action, the University should suspend any internal disciplinary action against the accused person while the criminal investigation proceeds. However, the University may be able to commence disciplinary action in relation to any matter which is not part of the criminal investigation e.g. drug use.

Scenario 3

What will the University do if the police charge the accused person but the trial date is set for many months away?

The University should, where appropriate, amend the safety precautions put in place. For example, in some circumstances, as a decision by the prosecutor to charge a student with a criminal offence indicates that there is some evidence to support the charge, a decision to charge may constitute an increase in risk. Similarly, in some circumstances, a decision by the prosecutor to reject a serious charge and proceed with a more minor charge may constitute a decrease in risk.

As part of the review of the situation, the University should consider whether there is a need to make any changes to support arrangements and/or precautionary measures. For example, the University may wish to partially lift a restriction on the accused student speaking to other students on their course if the criminal proceedings are to continue for the duration of the academic year.

The precautionary measures may be changed so that the accused person is only restricted from speaking to the reporting student and other individuals who the police have indicated will be called as prosecution witnesses in the criminal proceedings. The University may be restricted in what action it can take if a Court has given its own orders concerning conditions of bail or other restrictions on the accused person.

The University should ensure that periodic reviews of the support arrangements and precautionary measures are undertaken until the date of trial.

Scenario 4

What will the University do if the prosecutor decides not to press charges?

If the prosecutor decides not to press charges the criminal proceedings are at an end. At this point the University should consider whether there is sufficient evidence to take (or continue to take) action under the Discipline Rule or Enterprise Agreement against the accused person.

If the University takes disciplinary action against the accused person, it should review the situation and consider whether there is a need to make any changes to support arrangements and whether precautionary measures need to be put in place during the course of the disciplinary process or whether any measures that have been put in place should be amended or removed. For example, the accused person may have been subject to bail conditions which have now been removed and so the University should consider whether it is necessary to impose restrictions and conditions.

If the University does not take disciplinary action against the accused person, it should consider whether the accused person and the reporting student require any support and seek to provide that support. The University should also consider whether any action needs to be taken to protect the well-being of the students and take appropriate action. Note that in taking these steps, the rights and interests of both parties will have to be balanced fairly and equally, including if false allegations need to be investigated.

Scenario 5

What will the University do if the case goes to trial but the accused person is acquitted and wishes to return to the University?

If the student is acquitted the criminal proceedings are at an end. At this point the University should consider whether there is sufficient evidence to take action against the accused person. The University should take into account that the accused person has been acquitted of a criminal offence after a full trial.  

If the University takes disciplinary action against the accused person, it should review the situation and consider whether there is a need to make any changes to support arrangements and whether precautionary measures need to be put in place during the course of the disciplinary process or whether any measures that have been put in place should be amended or removed. For example, the accused person may have been subject to bail conditions which have now been removed and so the University should consider whether it is necessary to impose restrictions and conditions.

If the University decides not to take any disciplinary action against the accused person, it should consider whether the accused person and the reporting student require any support and seek to provide that support. The University should also consider whether any action needs to be taken to protect the wellbeing of the students and take appropriate action. Note that in taking these steps, the rights and interests of both students will have to be balanced fairly and equally, including if false allegations need to be investigated.

The examples above are based on examples provided within the UK Guidelines document (Guidance for Higher Education Institutions: How to Handle Alleged Student Misconduct which may also Constitute a Criminal Offence. Universities UK) http://www.universitiesuk.ac.uk/policy-and-analysis/reports/Pages/guidance-for-higher-education-institutions.aspx