In the Pell case, complainants have equal rights to justice.

30 Jun


Yesterday came the momentous news that Victoria Police have charged Cardinal George Pell with multiple allegations of the crime of sexual abuse of children, following their investigation of complaints made by multiple accusers.

The matter is now sub judice, which means there can be no commentary on the charges and allegations, and no predictions of verdict. Sub judice does not forbid all commentary, and the above link is a guide to what may and may not be published. Please read the first couple of pages before leaving inflammatory comments that might be in contempt.

There is also an interim suppression order on the details of the charges, requested by Pell’s lawyers.

My thoughts are with those complainants who now face an arduous courtroom experience, during which our adversarial legal system will permit Pell’s lawyers to tear them to shreds. Already there has been much commentary from Murdoch hacks that the charges against Pell have been instigated by a vengeful and incompetent police force hell-bent on conducting a witch hunt. In other words, as far as Paul Kelly, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt, Gerard Henderson and the other usual suspects are concerned, the complainants are liars and it is necessary to question police integrity. How this commentary is not flagrant abuse of the sub judice rule, I have yet to ascertain.

Much media coverage to date has focused on Pell’s right to justice. However, the complainants also have the right to justice. It is indicative of an almost entirely unexamined societal attitude that, particularly in sexual matters, the rights of the accused are likely to be the subject of greatest concern, while the complainants are, in the very essence of our law, obliged to prove they are not liars.

It’s amazing that Pell has been charged. In itself, this signifies an extraordinary change in societal attitudes to the sexual abuse of children, a change set in motion by the Gillard government’s Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, itself so fiercely opposed by several of those who yesterday claimed a witch hunt.

I have no idea how this will play out. Obviously, Victoria Police consider they have sufficient evidence to proceed. They have not assumed the complainants are liars. Pell is the highest ranking Catholic to be faced with such allegations, and the case has drawn global attention. For the sake of all concerned, most particularly the complainants, this situation must be allowed to run its legal course, whether you agree with the system or not. It’s the only one we’ve got.

Ive decided to add this astounding rant, published this morning by The Australian and written by Paul Kelly, as the site is pay-walled. 

In this momentous event, it is not just Cardinal George Pell who is on trial — it is the integrity of Victoria Police, the justice system and our capacity to deliver a fair trial.

There is no precedent for this situation. The most important Catholic leader in Australia since Daniel Mannix and close adviser to Pope Francis is being tried against allegations that Pell himself has perpetrated historical sexual offences.

This decision by Victoria Police comes after an unprecedented and manic campaign against Pell, leaks to the media, vicious character assaults in the mainstream media and grave doubts about the way police have conducted their inquiries.

The risk now is that the historic, unforgivable and appalling extent of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has taken yet another tragic turn — a show trial against the nation’s most senior Catholic figure. This is precisely what many people want.

The justice system must ensure it does not eventuate.

The issue here is not Pell’s handling of child sexual abuse allegations within the church — it is something entirely different; that Pell himself has engaged in sexual offences.

The decision to charge Pell is a shattering blow to the Catholic Church. The ramifications will last for years even if he is cleared.

The campaign of hatred against Pell transcends the deep and legitimate grievances of the victims and families. It is tied to the idea that Pell must be punished for the sins of the church and that this constitutes a form of justice for the victims.

Indigenous leader Noel Pearson, when venting his concern last month over whether Pell would get a fair trial, put the moral issue up in lights — the wrong done to victims of sexual abuse cannot justify a wrong being done in a witch hunt against Pell.

The case against Pell draws upon allegations of sexual offences by many complainants.

He has declared the claims are false. It is hard to believe these court proceedings will be finalised quickly. Whether Pell can receive a fair trial hangs in the balance. This is not just a trial for Pell and the church. It is a test of our institutions, our justice system and the culture of our civil society.

Convince me this isn’t written with intent to foul the Pell case.








26 Responses to “In the Pell case, complainants have equal rights to justice.”

  1. Arthur Baker June 30, 2017 at 10:51 am #

    Perhaps you should email a copy of this article to ministers Hunt, Sukkar and Tudge, who seem to have all sorts of difficulty getting their heads around concepts such as sub judice, contempt of court and the separation of powers, despite claiming to be qualified lawyers.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 30, 2017 at 1:07 pm #

      I think they know the law. They just keep testing the limits. Hopefully, they’ll have learned some limits for the time being, but they’ll be back.


  2. Anonymous June 30, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    It always pays to know where The Australian stands on every issue, even when it is predictable and incapable of arousing surprise.
    The great danger Australia faces in the coming weeks of the Pell debates is that many of us will confuse our attitudes to the way the Church has dealt with child abuse with our feelings about Pell’s answer to these police charges. Keeping these two things separate will make it harder for our society to practise the justice it claims is true to our belief in the rule of law.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. doug quixote June 30, 2017 at 11:28 am #

    To establish contempt the publication must be shown to have a “real and substantial tendency” to prejudice the trial. Not merely “a tendency” to prejudice the trial. Justice Lockhart’s definition is cumbersome but one thing emerges from it – nothing published on this blog could have the remotest likelihood to aspire to contempt of court. (Not even my posts, read and monitored as they are by all discerning media and political commentators. 🙂 )

    It is a different matter when three Ministers in the federal government openly attempt to coerce courts into increasing sentences, and into convicting more alleged offenders.

    As for Pell, he’ll get his day in court – quite a few days, most likely.

    The wheels of justice are slow, and sometimes victims and perpetrators will die before the truth is known to the world – Jimmy Saville is an example. Rolf Harris got to his eighties before conviction; the cases against Cosby and Pell are yet to be proven.

    As for us, gather ye the popcorn and await the event with anticipation.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson June 30, 2017 at 1:10 pm #

      That’s good news, DQ, because I really can’t be bothered dealing with contempt of court allegations.


    • paul walter, June 30, 2017 at 2:32 pm #

      The wheels? Yes, I just made a comment as to the wheel of karma elsewhere. These grind exceeding slow, thus exceeding thorough.

      As Pilate washed his hands of Christ, so George Pell- probably, we shall see- washed his hands of victims of outrageous behaviours from those they were told were protectors, not predators.

      Now the system has had to wash it hands of George, who has served his purpose and now must take his own air-conditioned route to Calvary.

      Yes, it will also be painful for the complainants, but the redeemable feature of it will be that they are able to air their grievances and expressed the pain long suppressed by a fallible system.They will be able to watch George’s face as the evidence is presented, hopefully experiencing the joyful epiphany of their own innocence and clear conscience, without social interference from cowardly trash like Miranda Devine who has now wasted the last of her gunpowder and shot on a lost and despicable cause.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Jennifer Wilson June 30, 2017 at 2:40 pm #

        I imagine there was a sense of enormous relief when he was charged. Probably followed by apprehension at what lies ahead from his defence counsel.
        An emotional hurricane.

        Liked by 1 person

        • paul walter, June 30, 2017 at 6:37 pm #

          Yes, a heavy and long borne burden lifted and better still, the best is yet to come.

          I some times feel cornered as to sexual crimes, but I really do believe even I am capable of empathy and sympathy- actually- for victims of any form of thuggery.

          That is, let alone sexual thuggery, which seems the worst thuggery of all, given the suicide and depression rates apparently involved.

          If it is shown that George Pell has reason to squirm for a guilty conscience and suffers, no one will be gladder than I.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson July 1, 2017 at 7:43 pm #

            I have no doubt of your compassionate capabilities, PW. I’ve had more than one occasion to be grateful for them.


            • paul walter, July 1, 2017 at 10:56 pm #

              Thanks. I am not the most perfect of people, but am not an axe-murder.


  4. 8 Degrees of Latitude June 30, 2017 at 12:24 pm #

    A very good summation. Paul Kelly’s piece completely shocked me. It seems as you say to to be motivated by a desire to divert the prosecution from its course of action. It will be interesting to see what evidence is led by the prosecution. (BTW, the sub judice link in your piece leads – or led me, at least – to “blocked pop-up”. No problem for me, but if it’s a blanket block it might prevent some people seeing it who might need to do so.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson June 30, 2017 at 1:11 pm #

      Thanks, 8 Degrees
      Are you overseas? (Looking for an explanation for the block)


      • 8 Degrees of Latitude June 30, 2017 at 7:48 pm #

        I live much of the time in Indonesia (Bali) which is where I am at the moment. But I use a U.S. based VPN (so I’m “not in Indonesia”). I suspect it’s my MacBook rather than anything else, but I’d thought I’d flag it with you.

        Liked by 1 person

  5. ruminatingmuses June 30, 2017 at 4:27 pm #

    I was extremely happy to Hear of his charges. How one can not be legally bound to extradited astounds me. The church is not a law of their own and I hope for all those victims which I know will be grilled through an unfair system that this Monster will be held finally accountable.
    Best news I heard waking up yesterday in Sydney I have heard in a long time.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. paul walter, June 30, 2017 at 6:45 pm #

    The Kelly effort reminds me of my suspicion, long held, that Kelly is pathologically incapable of distinguishing truth from lies.

    Of course, it is too late now for him, the biological processes (and perhaps, certain imbibery predilections) have rendered impossible any rehabilitative possibilities.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. townsvilleblog July 1, 2017 at 8:45 am #

    Pell of course, knows very well that its his word against theirs, he knows there is no evidence to ‘prove’ that he did what we strongly suspect that he did do, so he’s laughing. Unless someone has DNA or photographs to back their claims Pell will walk. Just another case of the rich and powerful avoiding justice.
    Oh by the way the Trumble, err Turnbull govt is running adds on SBS to tell people that they are reigning in foreign corporations and forcing them to pay tax, I’ll believe this when I see it. At least 30% of them have paid nil income tax since at least 2013 when their mates were elected to govern.

    Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter, July 1, 2017 at 4:29 pm #

      I cant see that Victoria Police would have taken this next step if they didn’t feel there was a fair case to present

      Even if Pell avoids jail, much of the truth will now definitively emerge. We now sit back and wait for events to unfold and if there seems a reasonable chance of harm being done the public can make its own mind up, regardless of what others wish to see as outcome.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jennifer Wilson July 1, 2017 at 7:47 pm #

        I find it so difficult to imagine Pell actually putting himself through a trial, when all manner of things will no doubt be revealed.
        We shall see.


        • paul walter, July 1, 2017 at 10:55 pm #

          Yep, their efforts to scotch it will be subtle and persistent. If it’s scotched, it will not help Pell’s reputation.

          Even if actual abuse accusations can not be proven, there is still the problem of his conduct in general, particularly as to the possibility of him turning a blind eye to the behaviours of others at the expense of justice for the outraged, also not pursuing allegations for fear of reputation and financial compensation as a burden on the church, which cannot be particularly “spiritual” thinking.

          Indeed, as the late Bob Ellis used to say, , “we shall see what we shall see”.

          Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson July 1, 2017 at 7:45 pm #

      I’m not so sure, Shaun, historical cases have been proved, there’s precedent, & I have no idea what the evidence is, or even the charges at this point.
      At any rate, I’m hopeful justice will be done


    • telfercronos February 26, 2021 at 9:57 am #

      I haven’t been a churchgoer for more than 50 years. The accuser’s story has always been quite unbelievable to me.


  8. townsvilleblog July 2, 2017 at 11:03 am #

    Jenifer I have been reliably informed that if all the ‘victims’ stories corroborate each other then Pell will go down big time, which is how the “Hey Dad” actor was found guilty, so with that in mind I doubt that the Victorian police would bring charges if that were not the case in this instance. As you say Jenifer, here’s hoping!


  9. David July 4, 2017 at 12:35 pm #



    Of all I’ve read so far, is how the church claims it is suffering and Pell is being attacked.
    …what of the incalculable DAMAGE of Rape(Physical, Mental & Spiritual) these men of God wrought upon vulnerable children ? ? ?

    I liken the church to a drug addict who’s totally out of control, delussional and living a lie.
    The rcc has brought this ALL upon themselves.
    …the church could have avoided ALL of this had they listened and followed what they preach and drained their cesspool-swamp decades ago.

    False allegations are extremely rare and for multiple victims who do not know one another to give corroborating accounts that are convincing enough for police and prosecutors to bring charges is virtually impossible, yet once again we see the victims being branded as liars in the case of Cardinal Pell.

    And prelates and other senior church figures continue implicitly to minimize overwhelming evidence of systematic abuse by characterizing the church as no better or worse on the issue than society at large — a “Morally Bankrupt Position” Unsupported By Any Evidence Based Facts.

    Until there’s “OUTSIDE” Intervention, the downward spiral will continue to get WORSE for ALL of us !

    Countries & States NEED to intervene as Australia has, simply because of the Collateral Damage the church has wrought and continues to wrought upon the Most Vulnerable children past, present & future.

    …and what has the church done with it’s OWN Carnage/Victims? The rcc throws them under the bus and we absorb the costs on all levels.

    The COSTS to families, communities, states & countries are Mind Boggling.

    And now we have along with many other catholic sympathizers, we have Bill Donahue & Mr. Pierre attacking & throwing the church’s victims under the bus.

    What a SAD state of affairs the rcc has caused & created !

    …and all the king’s horses and all the king’s men 
    Couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty back together again.



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