A senior NSW prosecutor says swim coach Scott Volkers would not have gone to jail over allegations he sexually abused his students.
Senior NSW prosecutor Margaret Cunneen SC has defended her decision not to recommend renewing child abuse charges against swim coach Scott Volkers, saying she would make the same decision if a similar case arose.
Ms Cunneen, the NSW Deputy Senior Crown Prosecutor, also said Mr Volkers would not have gone to jail over the charges, given the time at which the alleged offences occurred.
Ms Cunneen appeared for a second day at the child sexual abuse royal commission on Friday to face continued questioning over her 2004 recommendation that charges not be pursued 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, sparking public outcry and, following inquiries by Queensland’s Crime and Misconduct Commission, Ms Cunneen was commissioned to advise the Queensland Director of Public Prosecutions on whether Mr Volkers could be re-charged.
Her advice that charges not proceed – which included calling the allegations “trivial” – was criticised by a lawyer for one of the alleged victims as “irrelevant, unprofessional and just plain silly”.
Commissioner Peter McClellan said Ms Cunneen’s reasoning was important in understanding “the way decisions are made as to whether or not to prosecute sexual assault charges”.
Ms Cunneen stood by her decision, saying: “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”.
Ms Cunneen also said that the date of the alleged offences and their relative seriousness meant Mr Volkers would have been sentenced under the regime of the 1980s.
“I’m sure you would agree with me that Volkers would not have gone to jail,” Ms Cunneen said.
Andrew Boe, counsel for former Volkers student Julie Gilbert, disagreed.
“No, I would not,” he said.
Former NSW Director of Public Prosecutions Nick Cowdery QC will appear before the commission later on Friday.