Poor John Howard is copping a lot of flak this week for his decision to write a character reference for convicted pedophile George Pell. Like a number of Pell’s referees, Howard suggested that Pell was a completely different man in private compared with his public image. Actually, I thought that’s exactly what the trial had just decided.
While some are suggesting that this doesn’t really count because he may appeal, the fact is that Pell has been convicted in a court of law; he no longer has the presumption of innocence, many criminals have been convicted and don’t appeal. We don’t say, well, they’ve got the right to the presumption of innocence until they decide whether or not they’re going to appeal. In reality, jails are full of people who pleaded not guilty but were convicted. We don’t say that prisoner X has been there ten years, but we shouldn’t judge him in case he appeals and gets off thanks to his lawyer working as police informant.
It should also be noted that John Howard is showing remarkable consistency here. I don’t mean by supporting Pell in his hour of need. I mean that John Howard has never been one to place much store in legal processes. If one remembers he asserted that we didn’t need to worry about David Hicks being held indefinitely without charge, because, well, we know he’s guilty so there’s no need for a trial to determine exactly what he’s guilty of. In fact, Howard told us that Hicks hadn’t actually done anything that was a crime when he did whatever it was that led to his incarceration so we had to hold him without charge because we had nothing to charge him with.
Of course, telling us that Pell’s conviction didn’t alter his opinion of the Cardinal seemed a rather ambiguous statement. I’ve spoken to plenty of people who say exactly the same thing, but they didn’t seem to mean it in quite the same way. And I fail to see why Howard thought that Pell being a “lively conversationalist” was something that should be taken in to account as part of the sentencing. “Your honour, Don Corleonne has been convicted of murder, drug trafficking, corruption and theft, but before you sentence him, please be aware that he frequently has us in stitches with his dinner repartee and he makes a great lasagne…”
Howard is not the first person to write a character reference for someone whose conduct was less than perfect. I’ve been trawling through famous people throughout history and I’ve discovered the following:
Character references for historic figures
Judas: “I have known Judas Iscariot for a number of years. He’s been meticulous in looking after the finances of the disciples and he recently acquired thirty pieces of silver which he spread around.”
Jim Jones (Jonestown) “Jim mixes up a mighty mean Kool-Aid. It’s a drink to die for.”
Osama Bin Laden: “When it comes to games, Osama is the bomb. He almost became the World Hide-and-seek champion but unfortunately, thanks to a vaccination program (see they are dangerous!), he was discovered the week before he set a new world record. He still holds the title for the Saudi terrorists over six foot.”
Nero: “Not only is Nero a great ruler but when he fiddles the whole room lights up. In fact, the whole city.”
Charles Manson: “Charlie is a real family man, and inspires great loyalty.”
Adolf HItler: “Adolf is a great prankster and the way he tricked Neville Chamberlain with his assertion that once he was handed control of the Sudetenland, there’d be no more terrotitorial claims was genius. When Adolf called out April Fool and invaded Poland, he gave his generals amusement for weeks. For the rest of the year, one only had to say, ‘Peace in our time’ and they’d roll on the floor laughing. Not only that, but he has very shiny shoes and keeps his moustache trim and tidy.”
See, I told you that they wouldn’t be able to keep boats on the front page till the election. Speaking of which, I must say there’s quite a few Liberals I’m sorry to see go. When writing about Australian politics and I was short of something humourous, I could always rely on Chrissy Pyne. Just saying Christopher Pyne was enough to send some people into fits of laughter and now I’ll have to actually wait until Abbott or Barnaby or ScoMo says something before I’ve got a good punch line…
Still, I can be sure I won’t have to wait long.
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