11 April 2023

Ex-Labor staffer Alexander Matters found not guilty of raping student at ANU campus

| Albert McKnight
man walking from court

Alexander Louis Christopher Matters faced a trial in the ACT Supreme Court. Photo: Albert McKnight.

CONTENT WARNING: This article refers to an alleged sexual assault.

A former Labor staffer has been acquitted of raping a student at the Australian National University, ending a trial that has been described as a “traumatic experience” for both of them.

Alexander Louis Christopher Matters, who used to work for federal Labor MP and Member for Bean David Smith, was initially charged with the alleged sexual assault of a different woman in September 2021.

The Office of the Department of Public Prosecutions ultimately filed a notice declining to proceed with this charge.

In the meantime, he was accused of raping the student in an ANU campus dorm room in May 2021 and two charges laid over these allegations were brought to an ACT Supreme Court trial that started last week.

This woman said they started having consensual sex but claimed the then-19-year-old law student raped her by continuing to have sex with her after she told him to stop.

The 12 jurors began deliberating on Thursday (6 April) before returning after the Easter break on Tuesday morning (11 April) to deliver verdicts of not guilty to charges of sexual intercourse without consent and committing an act of indecency without consent.

Mr Matters could be seen sighing and closing his eyes after the not guilty verdicts were read out.

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“Mr Matters welcomes the verdict and would like to finally be able to move forward with his life,” his barrister Steven Whybrow told media after the jury had been discharged.

“We wrote to the DPP before this trial pointing out all the problems in this case with a view to avoiding those two young people having to go through this traumatic experience unnecessarily.

“This was a case that did not need to proceed to trial.”

The trial had heard the woman had been having sex with Mr Matters both before and after the alleged rape, and her friends knew they had been sleeping together.

She went to police with her allegations after reading media reports of him being charged over the alleged assault of the first complainant – the charge that was ultimately dropped.

“I don’t know what to do, I think I may have been raped too, I don’t know,” the woman messaged her godmother after hearing of the allegations.

Mr Whybrow said the woman was a person who supported the #MeToo movement, survivors of sexual assault and had attended the March4Justice in March 2021.

During her cross-examination, he asked her if she had gone to the police because she was worried it could affect her profile if it became known that she’d had sex with someone accused of sexual assault.

“That is not correct,” she replied.

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In re-examination, prosecutor Soraya Saikal-Skea asked why she had gone to the police.

“Because I knew what he did was wrong and I hadn’t told anyone,” she said.

Mr Whybrow told jurors that the day after the alleged rape, the woman sent Mr Matters sexualised voice messages that were inconsistent with what she told police.

He described the woman as young and immature and said it was clear from an early stage in her evidence that what she suggested was “totally untenable”.

He also argued to jurors that the woman had “shown herself to be unreliable, unresponsive … and she lied to you”.

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