The former head of public prosecutions in NSW agreed with a decision not to renew abuse charges against swim coach Scott Volkers.
Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery has supported his one-time senior prosecutor’s recommendation not to renew child abuse charges against swimming coach Scott Volkers.
Mr Cowdery told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse he accepted advice in 2004 from senior prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC that charges against Mr Volkers should not be renewed because the advice was “soundly based”.
Mr Cowdery, who headed the NSW DPP from 1994 until 2011, received a request in 2003 from his Queensland counterpart Leanne Clare to review the evidence in the case against Mr Volkers.
Mr Volkers was a coach with the Australian National Swim Team and head of swimming at Queensland’s Academy of Sport until 2002, when he was charged with indecent treatment of three girls in the 1980s.
Queensland prosecutors dropped the case in late 2002 but, after public outcry and an investigation by Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission, Ms Clare sought the advice from NSW on whether Mr Volkers could be re-charged.
Mr Cowdery told the commission he gave Ms Cunneen the job of forming the advice, and used it in formulating his own view before recommending to Queensland that the case not be renewed.
“I thought that the advice that was given … was soundly based,” he said.
Earlier on Friday, Ms Cunneen had defended her advice before the commission, which heard it had been criticised by a barrister for an alleged victim as “irrelevant, unprofessional and just plain silly”.
Ms Cunneen’s advice included reference to the allegations of one alleged victim as “trivial” relative to other sexual assaults.
Ms Cunneen also rejected a suggestion from counsel for one of the alleged victims that her advice “bent over backwards” to support the original decision of her Queensland counterparts.
Ms Cunneen told the commission that “had this been a first-instance case coming to me in NSW, with similar considerations, I believe I would have put it the same way”.
The commission also gained insight on Friday into the handling of sexual abuse cases.
Ms Cunneen, a prosecutor in more than 300 rape and sexual abuse cases, told the hearing that a victim’s wishes could not be the only consideration in deciding to prosecute a case.
“The prosecutor is not there to serve any sectional interest,” she said.
“The prosecutor is there for the community at large, which includes considerations of the interests of the victim and also the accused for that matter – but the community, who has an interest, of course, in ensuring that offenders are punished and rehabilitated, if possible.”
The inquiry continues on Monday.