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

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 Sub judice does not forbid all commentary, and the above link is a guide to what may and may not be published.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.

I’ve 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.

This article was originally published on No Place For Sheep.


15 comments

  1. kerri

    Given the lack of an extradition treaty with The Vatican, it could also raise some ticklish questions for the pope, in terms of co operation with the Australian judicial system?

  2. Ricardo29

    And those who were brave enough to make the complaints haven’t been subjected to vilification by Pell’s powerful media friends? Give me a break. Pell deserves, and will get, his day in court.

  3. helvityni

    “It was a sad story and of not much interest to me.”

    When he (Pell) said that, I felt sickened…words fail me now… they did not fail him then, it was a hard, clearly pronounced statement.

  4. Matters Not

    On the face of it, perhaps Ned Kelly’s bile can also appear to be calculated to influence the court in its decision or decisions and to interfere with the due administration of justice in the State of Victoria. By the way. it’s not the police who decide to prosecute or not – that’s in the hands of the DPP. Apparently they (too) see grounds. Why is Ned asking for special consideration for a particular individual? After all, it’s not as though Rupert is on trial. That would be a completely different matter.

    Seems to me that The Australian and its employees are serial offenders. Can we now take seriously, the apology offered only days ago? … There ought to be a law … LOL.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-06-14/ministers-called-to-court-to-defend-comments-on-judiciary/8618502

  5. john ocallaghan

    It always amuses me how the establishment sets out to smear the poor victims of these crimes,it is like these random people from all walks of life and backgrounds suddendly decided to contact one another,and meet at some designated destination and then hatch up this plan to ”get Pell”.

    I mean why would any sane person put themselves through all this trauma,all this suffering and all this heartache and terrible memories just to ''get Pell'', the concept is ludicrous in the extreme, and the vitriol and filthy smears and rumours and casual accusations brought against the victims from people like Kelly and Bolt and Co is frankly bloody disgusting!

    I feel sorry for these victims for the obvious wrong that felled them at the hands of these horrible depraved monsters,but then to suffer all over again at the hands of two extremley powerful organisations such as the Catholic Church, and those vicious bloody bastards at News Corp is a crime in itself!

  6. Keitha Granville

    Why is it because it’s someone “famous” that commentators feel compelled to decry the justice system, the plaintiffs, the police, suggesting it’s all a witch hunt ? Some citizens have made complaints against another citizen, the DPP has decided that there is a case to answer, so it goes before a court. Nothing else matters. nothing else is relevant. A judge and/or jury will make a decision based on the evidence. The fact that a whole lot of comment is being published is not helpful, but it cannot be allowed to have an influence on the outcome. The plaintiffs deserve to be heard, the accused has a right of defence. Simple.

    What any of us collectively or individually think is irrelevant. We weren’t there.

  7. diannaart

    helvityni June 30, 2017 at 10:06 am

    “It was a sad story and of not much interest to me.”

    Those words stick in my gut also. Those words of a Christian, a Cardinal, a Knight of the Church.

    I do not know whether Pell is guilty of the charges made against him. I do know he is guilty of indifference.

  8. Jennifer Wilson

    Keitha, I suspect the thunderous objections from the Murdoch cave are an attempt to muddy the waters with the goal of crying mistrial. Pell is an icon to them. They can’t see further than that.

  9. Matters Not

    diannaart re

    a Knight of the Church.

    Please. A Cardinal is a Prince of the church. A first citizen. Knights are much lower on the totem.

    There’s no need to denigrate George when he’s in a spot of bother.

  10. paulwalter

    It HAS been amusing with Miranda Devine, but the wheel of karma is as inexorable as it is inexorably slow.

  11. Christine Farmer

    Not only indifference, diannaart, but also, surely, professional negligence. If the story was not of interest to him, wasn’t it still his responsibility to investigate?

    But here he on trial for his own alleged actions. Of course that trial must be fair; however, who is going to want to be involved in whatever capacity? Surely they will be damned whatever they do. I imagine it will all be extremely messy, bitter, and horrible on so many levels.

  12. Jaquix

    Australians were incensed by Pell’s non-appearance at the Royal Commission. He cited health reasons, but that didnt wash with Australians. It was a lot easier sitting in Rome surrounded by churchmen, answering questions, than making the effort and coming to front the Royal Commission itself. I put a library hold on the book Cardinal by Louise Milligan – 20 people in line in front of me.

  13. diannaart

    Christine Farmer

    I was being too polite; wilful negligence. Pell at the very least was aware of abuse within his (whatever churchy thing) parish and chose to do little more than window dressing.

    Matters Not

    I really don’t give a rat’s with regard to religious hierarchy – ‘prince’; shmince.

  14. Leah

    For an interesting perspective how the church’s propaganda machine likes to portray its self as the victim see The Bilgrimage website. And for a necessary take down on the right-wing politics and culture of the institutional “catholic” church, especially via the behind the scenes machinations of opus dei see the website The Open Tabernacle

  15. jamesss

    I find it strange to actually link a man made religion created for control as being a church. It has killed like a plague throughout its history. Europe, South America, Middle East, The Indigenous everywhere. This present day, the children of our world permanently scarred by the darkness hidden behind the walls of their structures. They are the dark, they fear the disclosure, is our nation to be instrumental in the exposure? Let the Light shine in.

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