Presumption of innocence, or attacking victims & the legal system?

2 Jul


I’m somewhat baffled by the insistence of George Pell’s more vocal and public supporters that he is being unfairly treated. He has, they assert, been subjected to years of suspicion and innuendo and this, they argue, makes a fair trial impossible. Their opinion: he is the victim of a witch hunt and should not have been charged. The ludicrous conclusion of this argument is that nobody should be charged with anything if there’s been public commentary prior to those charges being laid.

I would like to see some proof of this claim of inevitable prejudice due to Pell’s profile, though I doubt there’s relevant data. What is interesting is that whilst Pell himself has welcomed the opportunity to at last defend himself in court, his Australian supporters seem hell-bent on declaring the process already poisoned. Obviously they aren’t respecting Pell’s desire for his day in court. So what are they doing?

Amanda Vanstone, former ambassador to Rome and Pell admirer, wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald in May: how would you like to throw out your own right to a fair assessment of whether you should be charged in the first place together with the right to a fair trial if you are charged? Vanstone goes on to further question the integrity of the Victorian DPP (to whom she was presumably referring in the phrase “fair assessment of whether you should be charged in the first place”) and Victoria Police, and to rail against latte sippers in cafes who she claims deny Pell the presumption of innocence. Vanstone’s descriptions of those calling for Pell to be held to account include “a baying crowd” and a “lynch mob from the dark ages.” Inevitably, she includes victims and alleged victims of sexual abuse by priests in her derogatory commentary.

Then take Tasmania Archbishop Julian Porteous’ comments in the Hobart Mercury on Thursday, when police announced they ‘d charged Pell:

HOBART Archbishop Julian Porteous says he is “shocked and disappointed” his former colleague Cardinal George Pell has been charged with historical sexual offences by Victoria Police.

“I think it’s terrible these claims have been made against him. I don’t believe they’ve got any substance to them,” Archbishop Porteous said. [emphasis mine]

He said he was also worried about the impact the high-profile nature of the case would have on a fair trial.

“The possibility of a fair trial is compromised. I don’t know how a jury could proceed with a trial where [there is] so much media out there.”

Archbishop Porteous also referred to journalist Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal, published in May, which details some of the allegations made against Cardinal Pell.

He said media coverage and the book were “creating a very unfair environment for justice”.

Cardinal Pell, 76, the Vatican’s finance chief, was charged by summons today with several historical offences dating back to his time as a Ballarat priest and Archbishop of Melbourne.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney — where Pell was Archbishop from 2001-2014, and where Archbishop Porteous was an auxiliary bishop from 2003-2013 — released a statement saying the Cardinal was “looking forward to his day in court and will defend the charges vigorously”.

Archbishop Porteous said Cardinal Pell was “a man of absolute integrity”.

The Porteous and Vanstone reactions are little different from the reactions of some family members when one of their number is accused by another of sexual abuse. There is disbelief and scapegoating of the alleged victim, and blind defence of the alleged perpetrator. This is not presumption of innocence. It’s taking a side, and it’s prejudiced. It’s nothing more than opinion, and reveals the inability of the bystander to acknowledge any possibility other than his or her opinion.

Pell has welcomed the opportunity afforded him by Victoria Police to put his case in a court of law. His supporters must respect his stated wishes, and cease muddying the waters by attempting to manufacture cause for a trial to be abandoned. This is not presumption of innocence. It’s a denial of justice, both to Pell and to the complainants.

It is worth reiterating that nobody, not Vanston, not Porteous, not Paul Kelly, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine or indeed anyone one of us can know the truth of this matter. None of us were present. Pell was present. The alleged victims were present. This matter must be left to the best process we have: the process of law. It is not presumption of innocence to deny that process to Pell, and it is not presumption of innocence to attempt to denigrate and undermine the institutions that, in this intensely scrutinised case, are all we have to administer justice.




32 Responses to “Presumption of innocence, or attacking victims & the legal system?”

  1. Arthur Baker July 2, 2017 at 8:27 am #

    That’s rich. Amanda Vanstone, one of a long conga-line of grim-faced Immigration Ministers over the last 20-plus years who have arbitrarily (and falsely) deemed boat-borne asylum seekers to be guilty enough (of what, one might reasonably ask?) to detain indefinitely without charge, frequently smearing them publicly as “illegals” despite their having committed no crime whatever, now appoints herself the arbitrator of what constitutes an unfair prosecution and trial.

    It’d be bloody laughable if it wasn’t so serious.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Kade July 2, 2017 at 8:34 am #

    Your last paragraph sums up the situation perfectly. Not one person knows the truth other than those involved. Lets hope the court and jury can do their job to uncover the truth. The Catholic Church has perfected pomp and show over the centuries seducing so many to accept their righteousness …… all I see is blatant abuse of power.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. townsvilleblog July 2, 2017 at 11:04 am #

    Reblogged this on Townsville Blog..

    Liked by 1 person

  4. AnnODyne July 2, 2017 at 11:26 am #

    I got to Ballarat the year he was promoted out of there and many remarked that the place was glad he’d gone.
    your post could be used well against any move by Pell’s defence team to get a mistrial.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Jennifer Wilson July 2, 2017 at 2:29 pm #

      Thanks for that, Ann, high praise indeed.


      • Anonymous July 2, 2017 at 7:08 pm #

        Jennifer, I thought you might find this ABC The Book Show interview by Ramon Koval 2010, of 3 high profile legal figures. Julian Burnside, Justice Marcia Neave & Robert Richter QC, the criminal defence lawyer Pell has engaged to represent him, of interest.
        Made several attempts to embed the link without success.
        Anyway if you type in – Reading on Vocation; Lawyers – The Book Show ABC it will take you to the link.
        I found many of the views & comments by all 3 ‘champions’ of our legal system concerning.
        Richter’s comments on a case he lost where he was representing a man who had murdered his wife & was pleading provocation was particularly disturbing.
        I really think that the almost god like status given to these legal professionals by the general public needs to be turned on it’s head.
        Thank goodness for writers like Helen Garner -‘ Joe Cinque’s Consolation& Phil Cleary- ‘Getting Away With Murder’ for shining a light on the v. misguided cultural myth that the law exists to redress victims.
        Pell is all puffed up & so confident of clearing his good name because he is well aware of how the heavy weights of the criminal justice system are on his side.
        Nonetheless, even if he does manage to clear his good name, the scales of justice for his victims, direct & indirect are weighing in their favour.
        Hundreds of thousands believe, support & empathise with them.
        I hope that gives them enormous comfort & the helps toward closure.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson July 2, 2017 at 9:38 pm #

          Thank you anonymous, I’ll find those interviews.
          I’m hoping the fact that Pell has been charged has brought relief to those affected, even in the face of the ordeals still to come with a trial.
          The law is far from perfect. And has its fair share of arrogant practitioners, I’m sure. I just don’t know what other avenues are available in this situation.


        • Marilyn July 3, 2017 at 3:40 pm #

          There does seem to be this weird idea that the courts and judges are little infallible tin gods but they can and do get it wrong. Ask Henry Keough wrongly convicted and jailed for over 20 years for a crime that didn’t happen, or Gordon Woods for a murder he didn’t commit.

          Our courts are racist, they are biased and it starts from the high court down and our racist white Australia constitution that none of the white trash parliament or courts want to change.


          • paul walter, July 4, 2017 at 2:33 pm #

            Our courts are but a mild example… think of the US Supreme Court for the ultimate corruption of the system.


          • paul walter, July 4, 2017 at 2:38 pm #

            Hmm must hit the wrong button.

            The Australian system seems almost gentle compared to the US Supreme Court when you consider the ultimate corruption of the system, but then again, can you find worse examples than people like George Brandis locally


  5. Jamie Roberts July 2, 2017 at 2:04 pm #

    The same could be said for a lot of men in court for domestic violence allegations and even more so in Family Court. The basic rights of justice have been tossed aside and man finds himself guilty and has to prove his innocence. In Family Court the situation is even more dire thanks to Julia Gillard’s reforms bought in in 2010-11 where allegations by women become gospel without the need for hard evidence and if they are proven false a women faces no penalty for not telling the truth in court. So the male suicide rate has grown alarming high to over 40 men a week with a fair proportion of them fathers dudded at Family Court. Now to make matters worse they’ve put the fox in charge of the henhouse with Gillard head of Beyond Blue.!!! It would be funny if it wasn’t so deadly serious,the very person responsible for bringing in reforms that have been the cause of a high percentage of men’s depression is now in charge of an organisation that’s supposed to be helping to lower the suicide rate and number of people suffering depression.
    It’s the stuff evil nightmares are made of.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David July 4, 2017 at 12:32 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 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.



    • Amanda Tamplin July 11, 2017 at 10:15 am #

      Thank you for your honest response. All this smoke and mirrors by the church is what has allowed the abuse of innocent children who trusted the clergy to look after them. I am so sad to say I am deeply ashamed to be called a Catholic. If George Pell is looking forward to his day in court, then bring it on.


  7. doug quixote July 5, 2017 at 2:10 pm #

    “What I’m more concerned with is the ones whose lives have not yet been shattered but if are shattered improperly or wrongly create an additional victim. I take it for granted that victims suffer, and from time to time when I’ve had to cross-examine some victims it’s made me weep internally, but at the same time I have to bear in mind that somebody else is about to become a victim if the process goes wrong. There is a victim, a given victim, the question is do we create another one.”

    Richter, eminent QC, in the seminar referenced above.

    Lawyers argue the best case they can construct for their clients. The adversarial system tests the extremes – black versus white – and judges and juries then try to find the shade of grey which applies.

    Is Pell guilty? Only time will tell, at the end of the process.


    • paul walter, July 5, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

      John Donne and things this topic is related to:

      “For whom the Pell tolls”

      “Perchance he for whom this Pell tolls maybe so ill as that he knows not
      it tolls for him. and perchance I may think myself so much better
      than I am, as that they who are about me and see my state, may
      have caused it to toll for me and I know not that.

      No man is an island, whole unto itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away form the main
      Europe is the less,as well as if a promontory were, as if a manor
      of thy friends or thine own were, any man’s death diminishes me,
      because I am involved in mankind and therefore never send to know for whom the Pell tolls; it tolls for thee”

      George is paradigmatic in his blighted humanity to the point
      where I fail to remember that what Donne says also applies to myself, or perhaps most others..

      George is a reminder of a place where many have been, are and where many will end up. I’m not a kiddy-fiddler but I KNOW; I am, “human, too human”.

      Must remember not to judge BEFORE the evidence is out and the trial done.


  8. paul walter, July 5, 2017 at 6:56 pm #

    One for George


  9. John Shute July 10, 2017 at 11:54 am #

    Great article that cuts through the rationalisations


  10. richiejs July 10, 2017 at 9:12 pm #

    well done


  11. Arthur Baker August 1, 2017 at 3:25 pm #

    Haven’t heard from you in quite a long time, Jennifer. Are you OK?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson August 6, 2017 at 6:47 am #

      Hi Arthur, Have been struggling with health issues and general disgust at the state of things. Many thanks for your concern, I’m on the mend 🙂


      • Arthur Baker August 6, 2017 at 7:00 am #

        Good news. Was starting to get worried.


  12. doug quixote August 1, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    I agree with Arthur.

    And we need a more regular fix, Guinevere!

    I trust that you are merely taking a holiday from this fractious world . . .

    I’ve pondered doing a satire on Trump, and also one on Pell, but its hard to outdo what they have done themselves.

    Even the acerbic Samantha Bee is able to satirise merely by reporting Trump’s words and antics.

    Meanwhile, our beloved Australia is the only English-speaking nation not to have legalised same sex marriage. It is long overdue. Perhaps in a month or two – who knows . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anonymous August 4, 2017 at 12:40 am #

      Yep. Hey Jen, just let us know if you are still alive.


    • Jennifer Wilson August 6, 2017 at 6:49 am #

      Hi DQ, have been out of action due to health matters, hopefully now resolved.
      As well, like yourself, am at a loss as to how best comment on the state of things atm. How many times can one express outrage without it ceasing to have meaning?


      • doug quixote August 6, 2017 at 6:04 pm #

        As many times as it takes, Jennifer.

        Even the Republican members of Congress are deeply disturbed by this chaotic administration, this deranged President.

        Impeachment is only a matter of time.

        The pity is that it may be later rather than sooner, unless Trump self destructs in the meantime, and is hauled away gibbering.

        We live in hope.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson August 7, 2017 at 9:25 am #

          Yes, but the Pence option???


          • Anonymous August 9, 2017 at 12:12 am #

            hahahaha You have thought of that one too, have you?


          • doug quixote August 9, 2017 at 10:46 pm #

            A holy roller, apparently. But he seems somewhat saner than Trump and may even be marginally competent.

            The Yanks got what they deserved with Trump, but if the Donald throws his toys out of the sandbox we will all suffer.


  13. paul walter August 9, 2017 at 11:59 pm #

    I agree with Jennifer’s comment, echoed by the incisive comment of Anonymous.


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