The rape prosecution of a young tradie continues to ruffle feathers within Victoria’s Office of Public Prosecutions amid claims it ignored it’s own guidelines.
Daily Mail Australia revealed last month Phoenix Cooper believed he had become a victim of the ‘MeToo Movement’ gone mad after Victoria Police and prosecutors pushed ahead with its case against him.
Last week, Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, QC, published an extraordinary defence of its case against the 25-year old after a Melbourne newspaper claimed the prosecution had proceeded on ‘obviously flimsy evidence’.
Phoenix Cooper was wrongly accused of drugging and raping a woman he had simply hit-it-off with at a trendy pub. The woman’s law student mates described him as ‘some random’
Phoenix Cooper was forced to employ high-priced barrister Philip Dunn, QC (right) to defend himself at the Supreme Court of Victoria
Kerri Judd, QC, launched an extraordinary defence of the decision to prosecute a young tradie over rape allegations the supposed victim could not remember
‘It is not the role of the OPP to determine guilt or innocence. It is the role of the OPP to assess the evidence in the case and determine whether it meets the prosecution test – that there are reasonable prospects of conviction; and that the prosecution is in the public interest,’ the statement read.
‘This determination is made after proper and full analysis of the evidence by both an OPP lawyer and a Crown Prosecutor. It then rightfully became a matter for a jury to determine whether Mr Cooper is guilty or not guilty.’
Victoria Police has launched an investigation into the prosecution of Mr Cooper, with Victoria’s Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission also believed to be looking into the matter.
For eight months the investigating officer had been convinced Mr Cooper had drugged his supposed victim, who claimed she could not remember having sex with him.
But when the results came back negative – he was charged anyway.
On May 6, Mr Cooper was found not guilty by a Supreme Court of Victoria jury of raping the woman, who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Mr Cooper claimed he had been the victim of a ‘one-sided’ investigation.
‘The (police) spent hours with (the woman) and her university mates, but 30 minutes with me. It’s like their mind was made up that I was guilty,’ he said.
Walk of Shame: Phoenix Cooper was chased down the road and photographed after wrongly being accused of raping a drunken law student, who was convinced by her mates that he had done wrong. Cooper is pictured with lawyer Zyg Zayler from Melasecca Kelly Zayler
In the statement, Ms Judd noted that ‘a Magistrate made the decision to commit Mr Cooper to stand trial’ and the assertions made in the newspaper article about victims of crime were ‘disappointing and out of touch with community values and sentiment’.
‘We know that coming forward with allegations of this kind is often very difficult for victims of sexual offending. To see this kind of commentary after a matter has gone through a jury trial, must be extremely disappointing for victims.’
Ms Judd denied reported allegations Mr Cooper’s legal team had information withheld from it at trial and claimed he had every opportunity to argue for the matter to be dropped when it first appeared at court.
‘At no time during the trial, did Mr Cooper’s legal team assert that he had no case to answer or that the matter should be stayed as an abuse of process,’ she wrote.
One of Australia’s top legal minds, who did not wish to be named, told Daily Mail Australia Victoria’s OPP had huge internal problems following its bungled prosecution of Cardinal George Pell.
On April 7, 2020, the High Court upheld Cardinal Pell’s appeal against conviction and acquitted him of five sexual offences.
A single judgment was given for the full court, which held there was ‘a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt’.
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne in 2019.
‘They’re a bit nervous for another reason because they insisted on charging Pell. That went through the system and the High Court found seven-nil that there wasn’t any evidence,’ the legal expert told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The consequence of that for the OPP, who insisted on proceeding with it, is that they charged him in a case where the High Court has said there was no evidence. That’s got some similarities (with Mr Cooper).’
The expert claimed the OPP seemed more interested in cutting deals with women offenders and running rape trials against men.
‘They seemed to have breached their rules (in this case) that there has got to be a reasonable prospect of conviction,’ he said.
Mr Cooper told Daily Mail Australia he hoped no one else would have to endure what he had.
‘Why did nobody put the brakes on this? Why has it gone this far? Imagine you had a son and your son was in a situation like this? Or a mate? Or a brother? It could happen to anyone,’ he said after his acquittal in May.
Mr Cooper believes he inadvertently became embroiled in the ‘MeToo Movement’ – a social movement against sexual abuse, sexual harassment, and rape culture, in which people publicise their experiences of sexual abuse or sexual harassment.
‘Look, don’t get me wrong, I believe in the MeToo Movement. But this is wrong. This is not rape in any world. There are guys going through this every single day that are facing years in prison and they can’t afford proper legal support and end up in jail on flimsy, flimsy charges,’ he said.
Mr Cooper, who was represented by top Melbourne silk Philip Dunn, QC, said his defence cost more than $200,000.
HOW A DRUNKEN FLING TURNED INTO A RAPE ALLEGATION
A jury heard the woman had not been keen to talk to her mates after she left the club with Phoenix Cooper.
When she didn’t pick-up the phone, her uni mate managed to track Cooper’s phone number down thanks to his previous bragging.
When he finally picked-up the phone some 20 minutes after leaving the bar, Cooper claimed she didn’t want to speak.
Unconvinced, her law student friend – now in an Uber himself – continued to demand he speak with her.
‘I’m fine, I’m fine,’ the woman told him.
Concerned about the slurring of her speech, he asked and was provided Cooper’s address so that he could come and check on her.
After that conversation, the woman got out of bed with Cooper and went to the toilet.
When she attempted to return to the bedroom, the jury heard she ended up in the bed of Cooper’s born-again-Christian housemate, who promptly returned her to the correct bedroom.
At 1.20am, the woman’s friends arrived at Cooper’s apartment complex and called him again.
‘Darling your friends are here,’ Cooper was heard to say.
But when Cooper failed to bring the woman down within 10 minutes, her mates proceeded to wake-up the entire complex by pressing every doorbell.
When Cooper and the woman finally went downstairs, it was noted she had no shoes on and her clothes were on back-to-front.
He would later tell police he had never seen his friend in such a state in the eight years he’d known her.
He further claimed when all four of them went back up into Cooper’s apartment to retrieve the shoes, she mouthed the words ‘help me’.
The court heard the woman’s two friends took her to hospital after she vomited in the Uber upon leaving Cooper’s pad.
When cops met up with Cooper days later he freely admitted to having sex with the woman.
Cooper’s barrister told the jury the reason his client hadn’t opened the door for the woman’s friends when they arrived that morning was because they were in the process of having sex, which Mr Cooper freely admitted when he finally opened the door.