Can Accused Offenders Seek Humiliation Damages?

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Hamed Khatiz

14 April 2015
The accused killer of Stephanie Scott, a teacher killed in country NSW, is currently at trial. This morning, a reporter on the major national breakfast show Sunrise declared that details have emerged of the accused's online behaviour.

He had apparently searched for Neo-Nazi propaganda and watched "violent videos". It made me think, why so early into this investigation, when the remains of the woman are still in the hands of the government for analysis, are the prosecution team wasting time on character references? And what if he is found not guilty?

I have always hated character assessments. They are just distracting. They are highly inaccurate. If these character assessments go to trial and he is found not guilty, that information doesn't disappear and it falls under the concept of humiliation.

Information like searching history, witness statements from neighbours and people who knew the accused, the passions and hobbies of the accused (remember when Oscar Pistorius was put under the microscope) those are things which don't go away when and if the case is thrown out.

Can prosecutors come under scrutiny for making that information public? People don't get seen the same even after they are released from trial. What do you think about character assessments of accused offenders and even witnesses in court?

I mean I am a volunteer at an online mental health support service and someone who has received help from that service as well. If I am accused of a crime, within the first weeks of the trial, information will start to surface about how I was mentally unstable at the time of the killing and researched notorious murderers (I read the notes from the Simon Gittany case and listened to Baden-Clay's 000 call, all public information).

Within the first few weeks, the girl who developed an irrational fear of me in 2011 could do an interview with Seven News talking about how weird I was and how she saw me as a loner etc. I wouldn't be looked at the same for a long time after the case if I was found not guilty.

I don't want to make this much longer, but I encourage you to talk about the questioning of defensive teams as well, how they paint a picture of witnesses. For example, in the case of Adnan Sayed, his lawyer Christina Gutierrez hinted that the main witness was cheating on his girlfriend at the time of the incident, like that has anything to do with anything...

I just think character assessment is the stuff of trashy magazines, not a court of law.


I believe prosecutors have broad discretion when it comes to prosecuting an accused, but they must have sufficient evidentiary basis to prosecute someone for a crime. Provided they are acting in the interests of bringing the accused to justice and observing rules of procedural fairness, they are to a large extent immune from criminal defamation actions etc which might be brought against, for example a victim who makes a false accusation about someone.


LawConnect (LawTap) Verified
27 May 2014
they are to a large extent immune from criminal defamation actions

This seems incongruous with the Privacy Act as prosecutors work for the Government and the Government is bound by the Privacy Act. Not sure though what civil remedies exist for contraventions of this act.

Also whenever I request my own information from some Government department I've got to jump through hoops and hurdles just to prove who I am before they give me MY information.

There is a public interest side to these cases, not all of it is prurient or unwholesome, so that does murky the waters a little bit. Not sure how the Privacy Act handles public interest.