CHRIS GERAGHTY. The Pell Decision.

Finally the George Pell dilemma has been put to rest by the illustrious High Court of Australia. Or has it?

A unanimous team of Justices have at last decided that the members of the jury who had unanimously found the Cardinal guilty of all charges were not thinking straight, or reasonably.

The jury team had been thoroughly and properly instructed by the chief judge of the County Court in Victoria that having heard and carefully considered all the evidence, if they were to entertain a reasonable doubt as to the prelate’s guilt, they were duty-bound to enter verdicts of NOT GUILTY.

They had been summoned off the Melbourne streets, sat for weeks in secret listening to the evidence, presumably paid attention as the judge delivered his solemn instructions to them, spent a few days going through the evidence they had heard in court and discussed it among themselves in the jury room, back and forth, over and over again, only to conclude in the end that not one of them had a reasonable doubt that Pell was guilty as charged.

All twelve of those chosen out of the barrel to become George’s judges of the facts agreed that the evidence demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt that the accused was GUILTY as charged.

Well, these were the lay contingent of judges, the ordinary street-wise men and women of Melbourne, about whom an elite team of lawyers were later to reveal that they had been thinking unreasonably when they found George guilty, and that they had not done their job properly – even though the law would tell them that what constituted “reasonable doubt” was so obvious to everyone, to the man and woman on the tram and in the factory, that the meaning of the term did not need, and should not be given, any further explanation or amplification. It was not a term of art. No mystery to it. Plan and obvious. No judge worth his salt should ever try to explain the concept to a jury, even if he was asked by a member of the jury.

Then a team of seven elite lawyers gathered to scrutinize the evidence which the 12-member jury had heard and seen, and after two long days of discussion in public (and who knows how many hours of private sifting), and without knowing anything of the discussions and disagreements which had occurred in the jury room or anything about the individual members of the jury (only that all 12 had agreed on the findings of GUILTY), all seven agreed as one that the jury finding had been wrong, that all the jury members, if they had been doing their job properly, should have had a reasonable doubt about the guilt of the accused, and that when they had all agreed on their verdicts, they had all been thinking “unreasonably”.

Though in the end, they did not have a reasonable doubt, they should have had one. According to the Justices of the High Court, the evidence they had heard and discussed should have led these 12 people off the street to entertain a reasonable doubt. They had condemned a man whom the law presumed to be innocent until proven beyond reasonable doubt – and at least to them, the doyens of the Law, the proof had not reached the proper high standard. The system of trial by jury had failed. Sometimes the wisdom of the professional elite trumps the nous and good judgment of the hoi polloi.

Now, where does this whole painful and expensive process leave Pell – and the complainant whose evidence the jury and the Victorian Court of Appeal had found to be credible and reliable, perhaps even compelling. Where does it leave Pell’s friends and supporters, and the complainant’s family, and the public at large?

Some want it said that justice has been done, or that the Cardinal has been proven innocent, that Truth has prevailed in the end.

Certainly, a form of justice has been done. The charges have progressed through the system of justice in Australia, and Pell has come out the other end with a finding that the evidence did not support, beyond reasonable doubt, the verdicts of guilt and therefore, on the law as it stands in this country at least, Pell can enjoy the presumption of innocence until his guilt is proven.

But it is still only a presumption. It is not a declaration that the prelate did not do to the altar-boys what was alleged by the complainant. Witness J’s reliable, credible, eye-witness evidence still stands – the allegations are still out there, denied by Cardinal George (but not under oath at the hearing), and counterbalanced in the scales of our justice by the“opportunity” evidence.

We’re back where we started so many years ago. Nothing has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. The Cardinal has not been proven to be innocent – or guilty. We still don’t know where the Truth lies. It has not been proven that he did not do what is alleged by the complainant. He goes free because the Crown could not prove to the satisfaction of the members of the High Court (only to the members of the jury and the majority of the three justices of the Victorian Court of Appeal) that the members of the jury were thinking straight when they decided on the evidence that they entertained no reasonable doubt and that George was guilty.

There has been no finding of Truth – in fact, no finding at all. No finding of innocence – or any satisfactory, reasonable finding of guilt. No finding that the Cardinal did not commit the crimes alleged. All we can now say is that there is a reasonable doubt as to his guilt. Maybe he’s not guilty. He has said he’s not.

Circumstances show that there is a real probability that he’s not guilty. But nothing is certain. The doubt as to his guilt, and therefore as to his innocence, remains. The complainant has said that the Cardinal assaulted him and his mate, but (though his evidence was credible and reliable), he may be wrong. After all this time, all we’re left with is a serious allegation, reasonable doubt and the presumption of innocence.

If I were George, I would not be happy. And now, in addition, he faces the redacted findings of the Royal Commission and a series of civil claims against him by alleged victims claiming piles of damages.

The civil proceedings may prove even more painful and damaging since in the civil jurisdiction there is no presumption of innocence, no right to silence and the onus of proof for the allegations is less burdensome – not beyond reasonable doubt, but on the balance of probabilities.

The civil contest is more even. Party against party. The Cardinal will presumably be a party to the proceedings and will need to give his version of the facts and submit himself to cross-examination. That might prove to be compelling theatre. If I am any judge, the road ahead for this senior cleric may be full of hazards and pitfalls.

Chris Geraghty, former priest and District Court judge now living in retirement – and author of a recent publication, Virgins and Jezebels – the Origins of Christian Mysogyny.

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Dr Chris Geraghty is a former priest of the archdiocese of Sydney, a retired judge of the District Court of NSW, and the author of a recent publication, Virgins and Jezebels – the Origins of Christian Misogyny.

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40 Responses to CHRIS GERAGHTY. The Pell Decision.

  1. Jerry Roberts says:

    You are absolutely correct Amber. The court has scandalised the community. You go to the heart of the problem The Church and the Establishment generally cared more about Pell and by association their own power than they cared for the children.

  2. Amber Watson says:

    The High Court delivered its judgment the day before the anniversary of when the other choirboy committed suicide, and released Pell in time for Easter. Absolutely sick.

    • Graeme Lawler says:

      Amber, evidence? Or emotive prejudice which has blinded you to the logical and clearly expressed judgements of the best legal brains in the country? Have you read the HC judgement?

  3. Amber Watson says:

    At the end of your article you say the victim in the Pell case may be wrong. Unless he is mentally ill and out of touch with reality, how could he be wrong about someone raping him and his friend? If someone is known to you through church and they rape you, it’s not like you are going to forget who they are or be mistaken. Just because someone thought 25 years later that it happened after choir practice and not mass does not mean they are mistaken about having been raped at all, and by whom.

    The High Court did not watch the tapes of the evidence and so did not see the demeanor of the witnesses when giving their evidence, which is the reason a jury assesses the evidence in real time. The jury had every reason not to believe Potter and Portelli after they said the Catholic robes were not able to be pulled aside, which was not true.

    Due to the damage this case and others are doing to the Catholic Church, people have a difficult time believing it. No one who seriously reflects on this case can think Pell is innocent. What we have is a legal system that doesn’t protect children from paedophiles by holding paedophiles to account, therefore it is no system at all.

  4. Graeme lawler says:

    Strange to read Chris’ eulogy for the jury of the 2nd trial (who only saw J on video – could this be significance) after watching the HC’s hearing of both Walker and Judd’s followed by Walker’s brief response and then seeing the HC summary. I wouldn’t draw Chris’ conclusion that innocence was not proved. Weinberg’s dissection of the evidence and clear rejection of the possibility of Pell’s guilt was vindicated 7-0 by the HC, including among the judges some who, by repute, would not be initially sympathetic to the accused, e.g. J.Bell. Actually Blind Freddy among VicPol should have had a Q mark about the 2nd claim that Pell assaulted J in a crowded corridor while fully clothed. Hadn’t VicPol heard of UK’s Fiasco where senior police believed Beech’s false claims for which he is serving 18 years or the more recent Case in Oz where 15 year olds claimed that they were assaulted by parents and friends (jailed)and hung up by their privates (ouch!) , luckily one told his mother. Juries are not infallible.

    • Amber Watson says:

      No Graeme, juries are not infallible, which is why there is oversight of judges, but juries are the ones who are supposed to find the facts and determine guilt and innocence. The above cases you mention about Beech in the UK was that the problem was detected early on. It is very rare for fabricated claims to make it past police interviews, the DPP, 12 member jury and two appeal judges. It is even less common for vexatious claims to result in conviction for wrongly accused. That is supposed to be the strength of the common law legal system and yet in regards of sexual abuse claims, many people seem to start with the presumption that they must be fabricated, despite the prevalence of sexual abuse as found by the Royal Commission.

      • Graeme Lawler says:

        Amber, you paint a picture of the ideal justice system however it is clear that this not operating well in Victoria with some preposterous allegations making the task difficult for police and juries although thank God for Weinberg’s logical dissection of J’s impossible accusations. No wonder the former DPPs were more than reluctant to proceed! And the spectacle of Kerri Judd’s submission to the HC (over nearly 5 hours) waving her arms around trying to assemble a window of opportunity for the prosecution case which wasn’t there. HC 7-0 – even though there some HC judges who might have been thought not to be sympathetic to Pell. The HC has saved Austailan justice from international embarrassment. But back to the Beech fiasco: the cops (and one MET cop who I won’t mention) regarded Carl as “credible and true” and then when it unravelled, found him a ” prolific and manipulative liar” and he, a paedophile in fact, was jailed for fraud and perverting the course of justice ” for 18 years. (see Jenny Hopkins, IndependentUK 22 July 2019). Does this ring a bell?

  5. Fernando Longo says:

    As has been seen by the many accounts of people abused by George Pell, I do not believe Justice has been done. Legalistic principles have been manipulated to have Pell released.

    Bring on the Civil cases.

  6. Ed Cory says:

    I have earlier on P&I expressed the view that Pell did himself a disservice by not putting himself on the stand to testify in his own defence – it cost him, in his second trial, the likely outcome of another hung jury, potentially an aquittal even. He paid for that silence with a year in prison.

    In the fallout from the High Court decision, we now have the jury being second guessed, and because of the precedent that this decision of the highest legal authority sets, potentially all jury verdicts are now appellable. Narrowing this precedent will not be the work of a moment.

    That the reasoning of the High Court was foreshadowed by the Pell legal team prior to trial, and not addressed (it seems) in the trial by the prosecution, are matters that warrant investigation of the Victorian legal system, or at least how it operated in this instance. It might be understandable that the Pell submission was dismissed as something that the a jury could decide on, but why then did the prosecution not seek to challenge those matters when raised in his defence, as noted in the High Court summary judgement? Was this a case of what the horse racing fraternity call ‘running dead’?

    On the subject of the meaning of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’, I have been a member of a jury that asked this question, and been the recipient of the advice ‘whatever you think it means’ – with the result that it was interpreted as ‘beyond any doubt’.

    • John Battye says:

      The only way to now overturn this subversion of the Common Law rights of the Jury System is to ruthlessly use s72 (ii) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth of Australia.

      • Ed Cory says:

        Perhaps John. We probably should wait on the HC full judgement, and see how they address these issues, and how they ringfence this judgement in respect to the status of jury verdicts generally, and the scope of the precedent this judgement sets. Regardless of how the HC defines the precedent, the best legal brains will be at work to exploit it, and those who can afford them will be the principal beneficiaries – I doubt that many victims/complainants will number amongst them.

  7. Jerry Roberts says:

    Thank you so much Chris. This is so valuable coming from a Catholic. My informants inside the Church are women who have devoted their lives to doing good deeds and whose work provides a reason for the continued existence of the Church. After the Pope’s disgraceful comments on the Pell dismissal it is the only reason.

    I thought the High Court judges were impertinent in over-turning the jury. They have given such a boost to the Religious Right that I fear the Attorney General will be under renewed pressure to present his religious discrimination legislation to the Parliament.

    The Cardinal, the Pope and the Court are now swimming in the same excrement at the bottom of the barrel. They are all a disaster for the Roman Church which, like all the other Churches, will only survive if it brings younger generations into its world. How many young people would want to go swimming in that barrel with those elderly folks?

    • Amber Watson says:

      Or do you think perhaps people no longer want to join the church because church people always talk about the abuse being a disaster for the church first before they mentions the victims, families, broader society itself, or for the courts clogged with these religious sex crimes? Or that the church, being a theocracy with UN membership and world-wide paedophilia networks, is a threat to a secular, democratic state like Australia?

      How many young people do you think want to join an organization where its members care more about the survival of the institution than what the institution represents or how it operates or that it always places the institution itself before the individuals it claims to serve?

  8. Peter Johnstone says:

    Chris, a thoughtful and perceptive analysis as always. Further to your comments about the jury, I believe that the High Court failed to consider a key element in the jury’s obvious doubts about the credibility of the opportunity witnesses. As you say, the High Court chose to dismiss the jury’s conclusion “without knowing anything of the discussions and disagreements which had occurred in the jury room.” This is despite their acceptance that “(t)he assessment of the weight to be accorded to a witness’ evidence by reference to the manner in which it was given by the witness has always been, and remains, the province of the jury.” (38)

    Central to the High Court judgement was their conclusion, “The honesty of the opportunity witnesses was not in question” (101), on which depended their assertion that the jury “ought to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to proof of guilt” (39). In fact, the honesty of these witnesses had been questioned in the lower courts.

    The High Court apparently missed or chose to ignore the Victorian Appeals Court’s contradiction of evidence from the opportunity witnesses on an important point of fact. The Appeals Court questioned the credibility of Portelli and Potter regarding their “categorical statements . . . that it was not possible to pull the alb to the side while the cincture was tied at the waist” (144), a matter on which they were expert. The Appeals Court (majority) concluded after experimentation that the alb “was well capable of being manoeuvred — while the cincture was firmly tied at the waist — in a way that might be described as being moved or pulled to one side or pulled apart” (146).

    The jury presumably reached the same conclusion. The Appeals Court noted that the vestments “were an exhibit at the trial and, we were told, had been available to the jury in the jury room during their deliberation” (145).

    Many priests and former priests have confirmed the Appeals Court view. Portelli and Potter seem to have deliberately attempted to mislead the jury in this regard, and the jury would have picked this up through their own experimentation. This should have caused the High Court also to question the honesty of these witnesses on whom they relied in upholding the appeal. If the credibility of the opportunity witnesses is in doubt on one point, it should be questioned also on the matters on which the High Court depended. The appeal could not have been upheld.

  9. John Battye says:

    My comments will be limited, and be more historical that legal.

    There are TWO (2) victims in this HC “Decision”:

    1. The Jury (and thus the entire jury-system) in the First Trial,
    and
    2. The victims of Child Sex Abuse (who effectively can now have NO recourse to law for remedy since the narrow application of the doctrine of “reasonable doubt” in this case).

    Pell’s defence in all upcoming trials will be this, despite their “civil” basis.

    Thus Since the HC (as in #1) has now appropriated to itself the right to be both Judge AND Jury – to both allow the appeal and then immediately dismiss the Victorian Verdicts upon careful examination of the evidence (heretofore the sole perogative of the jury); this new innovation, with an Americanised-style of a corruptly partisan judiciary, will eventually lead to a Soviet / Chinese type of judiciary.

    The parallels with the two Myall Creek trials in 1838 are stunning. One need only make these correspondences to see the result:

    1. First Myall Creek Trial with a totally free jury
    and
    The Victorian Legal System heretofore.

    2. The Second Myall Creek Trial with NO free jury
    and
    The 2020 High Court Decision – but with NO jury.

    3. We see the reaction to that Second Myall Creek trial was (and by today’s PC sensitivities, this SMH record may seem extreme):

    The case led to hatred from all the Squatter-Graziers right around settled Australia against both Gipps and Plunkett and a significant uproar among major sections of the population and the media, mostly voiced in favour of the perpetrators. For example, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald of the day declared that

    “the whole gang of black animals are not worth the money the colonists will have to pay for printing the silly court documents on which we have already wasted too much time”.

    This same paper called for Plunkett’s immediate removal. After the hanging, the Monitor Newspaper reported hearing a country visitor explain to a Sydney man that they did not have that kind of trouble up their way, they just put arsenic in food which they gave the aborigines because “nobody ever checks the death by sickness of “blacks”. It was much easier. The “trouble” referred-to, of course, was that from the likes of Gipps and Plunkett – NOT the Aboriginies as the cultural left wishes us to falsely believe.

    More dangerously, given Plunkett’s religion, and that of Therry, and they both should have been sufficiently astute to foresee it (but sadly weren’t) – it inspired Protestant musing as to the wisdom of the passing of the relatively recent 1832 Catholic Emancipation Act in London in the first place!

    Especially its effect in a colonial, frontier setting, with severely out-of-touch senior urban Catholic public servants, and proven Catholic radicals (such as Plunkett) with a decided anti-Protestant bias ever since the Castle Hill Rebellion of 1804, perhaps it was not the wisest thing to do?! At least for now, and especially in and for Australia – at least until the bush frontier had stabilised, and urban Catholics became more aware of and sympathetic to the mostly Protestant bush and its requirements.

    While a similarly robust response has as yet not been forthcoming for the HC 2020 Decision, I detect a growing sympathy for the sentiments of that SMH offering – as transposed to this HC decision – for this HC decision.

    As a Postscript, Gipps was effectively rendered illegitimate as a Governor, and was eventually replaced by the more emollient Fitzroy in 1845 after major AA lobbying.

    Plunkett thereafter was placed on a very short leash, from which he never escaped. He was NEVER allowed to do such a capricious judicial escapade again.

  10. Gavin O'Brien says:

    I have read Louise Milligan’s books on the Pell story from when he was a seminarian and then as a curate in Ballarat, as well as the more recent book by David Marr. As a Catholic and well aware of the culture prevailing at the time, namely pervasive ‘clericalism’ and a sense of the Church being above civil law, I was strongly convinced of the veracity of the witnesses interviewed by both authors .They had a hell of a lot to loose by going public. While the alleged abuse in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral seems difficult to comprehend, if the Cardinal was dressed in full regalia, the strength of the evidence and clarity of recall of the witness seemed very strong, as was commented on by the learned Judges. I was led to believe that the Cardinal could have committed the alleged assault , thus was guilty as charged.
    I will admit like many Catholics and others, I was very surprised by the unanimous decision of the High Court. I look forward to reading the Judgment.
    What does really does concern me is the extravagant use of Church funds to fight this case (and others) . In the end the money is the property of the Parishioners and meant to further the work of telling the Good News of Salvation, not paying very expensive lawyers to defend the indefensible.
    Now we wait to see if the Church will continue its own investigation, as required by Cannon Law.

  11. Hayden Legro says:

    Yes I agree we are back to square 1 because the matter should never have got past police scrutiny. It certainly should never have got past the Appellate Court. That is a tragedy for witness J and Pell.

    The police brief after advertising publically for anyone to come forward even after being sent back twice by the OPP was floored.
    The hung jury at the first trial was an indicator the case was not strong.

    After the Govt apology just prior to the second trial, the relentless targeting of Pell as the target board for all sex abuse victims, all disillusioned Catholics, many aggressive atheists and catholic bashers and those culturally conditioned to cut down a tall poppy meant jury selection could not have avoided comprising at least a majority of persons with preconceived views of Pell and the credible performance of witnessJ was all they needed to convict.

    It doesn’t warrant thinking about how poor the initial briefs must have been as only these 5 charges got through committal . As Frank Brennan has said the initial story of the complainant was the offences occurred after choir practice and not mass. It was only in the interview inRome with police that the allegations of the events occurring after mass were made.

    Pell asked police to speak to those involved in the mass to verify the lack of possibility of these events occurring but police failed to do so. The unchallenged circumstantial evidence from 22 witnesses as to the lack of opportunity to commit this offence whose memory may not have been perfect but who were persons of good character, meant this case was always going to fail with uncorroborated evidence of Witness J
    even if believable evidence.

    The initial complaint of the witness J through his mother referred to offences occurring in Ballarat diocese by a priest and then later at Ballarat cathedral. I believe witness J has probably been abused by a priest in the Ballarat diocese . As Frank Brennan said this morning, the police did not serve witness J well at all.

    Pell is innocent in the eyes of the law. Much is made of the doubt to his actual innocence.
    That is true of every case where this in an acquittal. If Pells case had been dropped after police investigation or by the OPP as it should have been, most of Chris Geraghty’s musings here would simply not hold.

  12. Geoff Prior says:

    Reasonable Doubt came through the pack for a clear win in the Justice Stakes yet again on Tuesday, just in front of Believable Witness and Faith a half head in third. Stewards walked backwards into the protest room and returned Laughing, fourth.

    Believable, Compelling and Honest trailed the field despite leading into the straight.

    Reasonable Doubt adds to its illustrious career as the most successful nag in the sport of justice despite having the DNA of a near donkey.

    It pays to have a good jockey and play for a draw.

    No wait. That’s another sport.

    • Gavin O'Brien says:

      I am not a horse racing person but absolutely laughed my self ‘horse’ at this ‘call’. Well done Geoff!

  13. Mark Buckley says:

    We should all go back to Rosemary O’Grady’s last article and read it carefully. I would be willing to bet that S276 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009 is pivotal in the HCA’s decision, when it appears.

  14. ANDREW FARRAN says:

    There is a natural lament that the Pell case did not clear the air completely apart from Pell being a free man again. Nothing was proved beyond reasonable doubt. The criticism is that the evidence was good enough for the jury. But what about the law? Juries are human and there may be unknown factors that influence their perception. An appeal court is entitled, on the face of known factors, to question the reasonableness of a jury’s finding.
    I have no candle for Cardinal Pell per se, but I am concerned that at various levels of the law, and its administration, there are inadequate protections against ‘unsound’ convictions, unless it be the law itself, properly applied.

    What intrigues me is that at the time of the alleged offences at the Cathedral the Cardinal was accompanied by and in the presence of a senior priest, one Monsignor Portillo, who was not called as a witness either by the Prosecution or the Defence. I may be misinformed about that (relying on media reports). But one would think that if the Prosecution was to prove its case it would have put the Monsignor in the witness box and cross-examine him. Had he failed the cross-examination, then Q.E.D. for the Prosecution.

    With the presence of Monsignor deliberately not tested, how could one say in such circumstances that there cannot be a basis for reasonable doubt? The minority judge in the Victorian Appeal Court was spot on. And as far as the law can be concerned that is all that matters. So held the High Court.

    • Hayden Legro says:

      Andrew , Monsignor Portelli was a key witness for the prosecution in both trials.

    • Geoff Prior says:

      Twelve jurors established the fact of Pell’s abuse. The defence established no facts, about the day, apart from general probable facts about the usual day, which may have indicated strongly the improbability of these abuses on a normal Sunday.

      But now we can’t but think, if there is reasonable doubt, what the alternative facts might be, in the face of the witness being thought ‘Believable, compelling and honest . . .’

      There is no alternative scenario. There was not a glitch, a whiff, a stutter. Not a fly past the window of the witness’s testimony of what you can bet was the most forensic examination of a video in Australian legal history.

      But now, the seven judges, blind of the testimony, are able to state that the defence, which established no facts about the day itself, should have been found to have established reasonable doubt.

      The justices did Justice the favour, not justice. They defended their own gig.
      Where would we be if a mere jury is to be the sole arbiter?

      The witness should have reasonable doubt that the Archbishop put his penis in his mouth.

  15. Terry Laidler says:

    For the record, Judge Kidd was asked by the jury what constituted a reasonable doubt and he replied exactly as you suggest, Chris.

  16. Jim KABLE says:

    Just now – it is with some sense of dismay at the release of George Pell back into the community – that I am revisiting and reviewing as much as I can the technicality which saw my abuser also released – albeit nigh on 60 years ago when I was 11. It is a case which has strong overtones of church complicity I think – just not the Catholic Church – instead a narrow fundamentalist sect.) I’d be happy if anyone were able to uncover the transcripts of the case – Tamworth Local Court – early February, 1961. The name of the Magistrate is unknown to me – and that, too, of the Police Prosecutor (a good and sensitive man in my memory) – but the defence lawyer was Adrian Solomons (later a NSW MLC and knighted – and by all accounts a good and honourable man, too – but in my case – cleverly able to defend his client – a man with the initials JH – freed on a technicality). Having read Louise Milligan’s thorough examination of Pell and his activities – and having watched the incisive if harrowing questioning of Pell associates now locked away – and of his Ballarat victims/survivors – by Sarah Ferguson – and having read a sketch from several years ago by writer/journalist (of extraordinary sensitivity) Trent Dalton – Weekend Australian Magazine – who investigated similarly hideous rapes of boys in a Catholic boys Institution in Armidale decades ago – I have absolute belief in the veracity of the Ballarat chaps. Pell has been released under the auspices of a bench of High Court judges acting in the manner of the Pharisees of Biblical Times – the letter but not the spirit of a very interestingly and deviously narrow section of the case – making an ass of any respect for them, the court system in this country – and the law!

    • Ro Bailey says:

      Louise Milligan’s book was quite damning of Pell and very plausible.

    • Brian Andrews says:

      Sorry to hear what you went through, Jim. What good is the law if it cannot consistently catch and punish child abusers? If reasonable doubt is going to be so narrowly defined, there needs to be some other sort of system for trying these types of crimes.

  17. Richard Ure says:

    If it is all over including the shouting, why has Ita Buttrose capitulated to Andrew Bolt’s editorial control of the ABC by pulling the third episode of Revelation on iView? If it is to add historical context by a statement before the credits about the outcome of his trial, that could be done overnight.

    • Graeme lawler says:

      The ABC said it was “editing” Revelation Episode 3 we think and that is quite understandable because it is defamatory and deceptive as S. ferguson claimed on the show that the astonishing allegations by”Bernie” and the other one were NEW when they had been dropped by VicPol in 2018 around the time of the acquittal. Pell did not go to the orphanage where Bernie claimed he had been assaulted until the orphanage had closed in Ballarat. VicPol has the record now of trying to bring 26 allegations against Pell but without success. I don’t think the circus of Operation Tethering over the last 5 years is going to bring them any credit. The original police interview has the complainant placing the attack after choir practice and there were many changes and cannot recall through the first trial. Remember he was not cross examined in the 2nd, they saw the video only.

  18. Tom Kelly says:

    Will Cardinal Pell’s friend Pope Francis offer him refuge and retirement in the comfort in the Vatican, when international travel is is allowed? This would allow him to continue to hide from cross examination at the various civil trials that are on the horizon.

  19. David Heath says:

    Purely for context, I’d be interested to know how many members of the High Court were catholic.

    I realise that accusations of implied bias are rarely made against our highest court, but I keep in mind the well-known partisanship of the US equivalent.

  20. Ray Edmondson says:

    What astonishes me in the Pell case, and in all the other cases of sexual exploitation of children by the Catholic church, is the legalistic nature of the aftermath, and the lack of the church itself automatically calling the perpetrators to account. There appears to be a complete absence of any pastoral concern by the church for the victims, nor any attempt at truth and reconciliation, nor any reference to the biblical injunctions to care for children and to seek reconciliation. Rather the church seems to be operating in a parallel universe, like a ruthless corporation protecting its assets and its image and covering up its misdeeds.

    Who footed the bill for Pell’s expensive legal defence? Ultimately, was it local parishioners – willingly or otherwise? In good conscience, was it money well spent? It’s Easter, and I can’t help reflecting that when Jesus was falsely accused by the establishment of the day, he didn’t go out and hire expensive lawyers. I wonder what he would think of the church’s conduct in these matters?

    • Felix MacNeill says:

      I think it roughly parallels the way large corporations seek to privatise the profit but socialise the risk: when it comes to the seal of the confessional, the church claims their right and ability to act independently of Caesar but, when it suits, they’re happy to hide behind the hem of his toga.

  21. Steve Jordan says:

    Oh learned people in the law, is there any chance that the Vic DPP can reinstate the charges for the alleged attacks by Pell when he was a priest in the Ballarat diocese? Is it the case that these charges were withdrawn by the DPP because the witnesses could face the whole business of having to go through that history? In the third sessions of Revelation, it appears the witnesses are now up for it?

    On the redacted section of the report of the RC, this redaction was to ensure that trials of Pell envisaged at the time would not be prejudiced? Is the federal AG justified in not publishing the full version of the report because the Vic DPP may reinstate the charges from Pell’s Ballarat days? Yes?

    Thanks in advance to any respondents clarifying these points.

  22. Eric Hodgens Eric Hodgens says:

    In the Catholic Church, once a non-frivolous complaint against a priest is received the priest is placed on Administrative Leave. If the complaint is found to be credible and substantiated, sanctions are placed on the offending priest. The sanctions following such a finding in Cardinal McCarrick’s case were suspension from priestly activities and then dismissal from the priesthood. A secular jury have unanimously decided that George Pell is guilty of child sexual abuse. No Church investigation has yet happened in the Pell case. There is need for a protocol that leads to a Church inquiry if a secular charge is deemed credible enough to be sent to trial.

    • Rex Jacombs says:

      My understanding is that a church investigation has been initiated but placed on hold, pending the outcome of all appeals. I further understand that this is so that the church investigation may rely on all materials considered pertinent.

  23. Stephen Saunders says:

    “Would not be happy”? Nah, he’d be over the moon. But readers, do check the Day 2 transcript. Judd for Victoria took a devastating bollocking from the judges, who threw Walker for Pell’s “reversal of onus” straight back in her face.

    It’s clear these were fairly limited opportunities with quite some risk, and a normal person in a normal situation wouldn’t dare…

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