5 Key Outcomes: What Happens When A Victim Changes Their Story
Ever wondered what happens when a victim changes their story? How does it affect the entire case?
When a victim changes their story in an assault case in Australia, several outcomes can occur, depending on the nature and degree of the change:
Impact on credibility: The court, the prosecution, and the defence may question the victim’s credibility.
If there are significant inconsistencies in the victim’s accounts, the defence may use this to cast doubt on the credibility of their testimony.
Change in charges or case dismissal: If the new version of events differs significantly from the original, it may result in a change in charges, either an increase or a decrease in severity.
In some instances, if the change is significant enough and the prosecution no longer believes it can prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, the case may be dismissed.
Potential perjury charges: If it is determined that the victim intentionally lied under oath, they may be charged with perjury.
This is, however, uncommon and is typically only considered when there is clear evidence of intentional deception.
Possible retrial: If the change in story materially alters the original case’s foundation after a verdict has been rendered, it may be grounds for an appeal and a possible retrial.
Impact on victim services: Changes in the victim’s account may also affect their access to certain victim services if those services depend on the incident’s specifics.
What Happens When A Victim Changes Their Story, and What Does Recanting a Statement Mean?
In the legal context, recanting a statement refers to withdrawing, retracting, or denying a previously made statement or testimony.
This occurs frequently in legal proceedings when a witness or victim decides to change their initial story, claiming it was false, erroneous, or coerced.
What Are the Possible Reasons Why Victims Changes Their Stories?
A variety of factors, including the complexity of the crime, the traumatic experience, and the victim’s circumstances, may influence a victim’s decision to alter their original account.
Here are some possible reasons:
Fear of retaliation: Especially in cases of domestic violence or gang-related crime, victims may fear that they or their loved ones will face retaliation if they reveal the truth.
Pressure or coercion: The perpetrator, or even family or friends, may exert pressure or coercion on the victim to change their story. This could be in the form of threats, intimidation, or manipulation.
Shame or embarrassment: In certain situations, victims may experience feelings of shame or embarrassment, especially in cases of sexual assault or domestic violence.
To avoid the stigma associated with being a victim, they could minimise or deny the incident.
Trauma and memory issues: Traumatic events can impact memory, and a victim’s recollection of a traumatic event may alter as they process what occurred.
In certain instances, they may recall new details that were not included in their initial statement, or they may recall events differently.
Lack of trust in the justice system: Some victims may be concerned that they will not be believed or that the legal process will be too stressful or retraumatizing. As a result, they might change or withdraw their statement.
Financial or emotional dependency: Victims of domestic violence may be financially or emotionally dependent on their abusers.
In an effort to preserve the relationship or their living situation, they may alter their story.
Guilt or sympathy towards the perpetrator: In certain circumstances, the victim may feel guilty or have sympathy for the accused, especially if the two had a close relationship prior to the incident. This could prompt them to modify or retract their statement.
Self-blame: Occasionally, victims attribute the incident to themselves and may alter their accounts to reflect this misplaced sense of responsibility.
What Happens When A Victim Changes Their Story, and Will the Case Continue Despite the Victim’s Retraction?
Whether a case continues after a victim recants their statement depends on several factors, the most significant of which is the quantity and quality of the remaining evidence.
If the prosecution’s case hinges heavily on the victim’s testimony and there is little other evidence, it may be difficult to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt without the victim’s statement. In such circumstances, the case may be dismissed or dropped.
Nonetheless, if there is substantial physical evidence, other witness testimony, or corroborating evidence such as surveillance footage, the case can proceed without the victim’s statement.
It is also important to note that in certain jurisdictions, previous statements, including those that have been recanted, may still be admissible in court.
In certain types of cases, such as domestic violence or child abuse, the prosecution may choose to proceed even without the victim’s cooperation due to the ongoing risk to the victim or others, or the public interest in prosecuting such offences.
The ultimate authority rests with the prosecutor, who will evaluate the evidence and determine the most appropriate course of action.
What Happens When A Victim Changes Their Story?
Justice Family Lawyers is here to guide you through this complex process. Our experienced team provides clear, empathetic, and expert advice tailored to your unique situation. Don’t let legal confusion add to your distress.
Visit our website or call us today to learn more about ‘what happens when a victim changes their story’ from professionals who genuinely care. Your path to clarity starts here with Justice Family Lawyers.
Principal of Justice Family Lawyers, Hayder specialises in complex parenting and property family law matters. He is based in Sydney and holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Communications from UTS.