Pell convictions not supported by evidence – now quashed

Andrew L. Urban

In its unanimous 7 – 0 decision, the High Court concludes its summary of the decision in the George Pell appeal with an abundance of restraint: “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.

Today’s High Court’s decision is in complete synch with the dissenting view of Justice Weinberg of the Appeals Court, which refused Pell’s appeal 2 – 1. We reported some of the dissenting voices, including Weinberg’s, and suggested how the complainant’s testimony – claimed by many to be wholly credible – might be reconciled with Pell’s innocence.

Now with Pell’s convictions quashed, it can be argued that the Victorian legal system has revealed some significant flaws, magnified by a media unable to obey its obligations to objectivity. The complainant suffers mental health issues, it is now revealed, but the jury were not permitted to know this. The Victorian police culture that effectively hunted Pell, is fully discredited. The jury allowed itself to be convinced without justification. Nor were they warned that with such absence of evidence to corroborate the allegations, they must be certain that there is not a shadow of doubt about Pell’s guilt.

Still in restrained mode, “The Court held that, on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”

“…acting rationally …” ? The feeding frenzy of the anti-Pell media and the Catholic church’s low standing in relation to child sexual abuse together contributed to the jury not ‘acting rationally’.

“The High Court considered that, while the Court of Appeal majority assessed the evidence of the opportunity witnesses as leaving open the possibility that the complainant’s account was correct, their Honours’ analysis failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.” Always restrained and respectful, even when outrage is warranted.

Cardinal George Pell

Reverberations of this case will haunt our legal system for decades.

 

And there are more such cases, see here

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15 Responses to Pell convictions not supported by evidence – now quashed

  1. Tom Cairns says:

    We all know that Pell was originally convicted on evidence of the actual victims and this was given in such a compelling way that it was difficult not to accept it as truth.
    The “quashed” decision is based on the fact that the original evidence was not strong enough to be technically acceptable. There were no witnesses, but this does not mean that he is completely innocent.
    It means that George Pell may still be guilty in the prima facie sense and actually guilty of the crime in any sense. Certainly the ABC program Revelation episode three would seem to leave no doubt at all. It is Bernie’s word against George’s to put it crudely.
    Nevertheless the holistic view is that George Pell has such a history of participation in direct or indirect depredations of this medieval mockery that calls itself a church that he is guilty by association and definitely a lot guiltier than that. There has been complicity at all levels and he is by his own admission guilty of inaction.
    He has been knowingly surrounded by monsters in Hallowe’en suits swinging brass crosses at their knees, wafting smoke everywhere and wearing facial expressions that would seem to indicate some degree of chronic constipation. Their claims that the devil is behind the evil and that the children were his agents is just a bit much. Thank you Francis. If that is what the top man has to offer than it is no wonder there are whole gangs of these perverts.
    The fact that George Pell still wants to be a part of such depravity says it all.

    • George Pell was found Not Guilty.

      I am sure people have read about the witch trials in Salem, somewhere along these lines in their lives…Is it Fantasy ? No it’s not, it has changed it’s name from The Witch Trials to the Catholic Church and priests.
      All you have to see is a headline, Priest.. Catholic Church..an everyone shouts GUILTY. Social media is rife with it.

      I abhor pedophilia no matter who it is. But I still need positive proof from both sides to form an opinion.
      We must keep in mind with all the different religions is there a pedophile lurking there ?

      • Tom Cairns says:

        Sorry Nola, Pell was not found Not Guilty, the original verdict was revoked meaning it was not proven. He could still be guilty. However his perverted minions were protected by him and by other high high officials as though their misdeeds were no worse than the naughty behaviour of little children, so he is at least guilty of that. He says so himself.
        And what about the other occasions recounted by so many boys who are now men of his showering and fondling and the consequent suicides and descent into self-harm? Pell himself admits he should have done more but he would not be saying that now were it not for the media and a free democracy.
        Interesting that you should mention the Salem Witch Trials. Innocents suffered again at the hands of powerful high church officials and when it was decided there had been a mistake the churchmen simply walked away without even an “Oops, sorry” They had no need, they were Men of God.

      • John S says:

        Well done George Pell, this time you won. Next time I think he won’t win because the prosecution will learn from it’s “oversight” (that he may have greeted off worshipers after the mass). Then we’ll see about him merely being some sacrificial lamb or scape goat, what hogwash! And unlike some, I doubt the sole witness was lying! Why would he go through all that?! Then we’ll see about Pell’s guilt!

    • Jilly says:

      Tom, I agree. Well said.

  2. Julie Bloxsom says:

    HIGH COURT DECISION FOR PELL –

    “A significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.

    SO WHY IS SUE NEILL-FRASER IN JAIL…STILL???

    JUSTICE STINKS!!!

    WILL HER APPEAL STILL BR STARTING ON MAY 25 2020???

    WHAT A DISGRACE THE TASSIE POLICE, PROSECUTORS, POLITICIANS, ETC ARE!!!

    I HOPE WHEN SHE GETS OUT SHE SUES THE PANTS OFF ALL OF THEM.

    STAY STRONG SUE.

    • Amanda says:

      Sue’s Further Appeal has been postponed from May to August at the earliest. Now Pell’s free, perhaps he’ll take up the cases of victims of miscarriages of justice – like Sue – who have spent much, much longer in prison than he did.

      • Tony Brownlee says:

        Thanks for the laugh! Pell has demonstrated among many things that he cares not for another only his privileged self and his criminal gang mates. Expect nothing from Pell, ever, except arrogance and a right to do as he and his gang members please, every time!

    • Tom Cairns says:

      Thank you Julie, my sentiments entirely. I only wish that I had gone on the record twice as stating that Sue’s appeal would be postponed and when it was that it would be again.
      What is hardest to accept is the total lack of any sort of apology or even plausible explanation for this sordid procrastination.
      It must be awful being an involved Tasmanian police officer right now desperately trying to find an escape route knowing that the last thing they can afford to do is to allow Sue her freedom pending an investigation. Then never a word about the information they were given about the alleged guilty party who was on the yacht at the same time as the DNA of his companion. Never a word.

    • Jilly says:

      I was just about to say the same thing. Nice to know there are a few Australians with a real brain.
      Sue should not be in jail and if our Government had any balls, they would be jumping up and down.
      How can the PATHETIC jury get it so wrong. They should be in jail for what they have done!
      Sue may get an appeal hearing in August, but, some are saying it could even be next year. Because her Melbourne Lawyer may not be available to travel to Tas, due to Court commitments over there. You can’t trust any Lawyer here. If she had money and a Barrister she would would have some chance.
      What has been done to her makes me feel sick to my stomach and unable to sleep.
      My heart goes out to Sue and her family.
      THIS MUST STOP. IT COULD HAPPEN ANYONE OF US. :-(

  3. Jill says:

    My question is: How many people are sitting in jail on account of the inability of juries to make ‘rationa’l decisions in the last decade on account of the media frenzy around royal commissions, #metoo, poor policing, the assumption that “victims” don’t lie, moral panic etc who have not had the funds or adequate legal representation to get them out.

  4. Ger says:

    Accepting the HCA decision is only 3+hours old at the time of posting this comment and, not having read the HCA decision, my first thought to research is how did Pell’s application to appeal CCA decision get past HCA sentry at gates for review and, S-Neill Fraser’s application was dismissed abruptly in a minute or so?

    Although my question may be indeed ignorant and uninformed, I must now read further. Meanwhile, I am posting my preliminary reaction as a starting point.

    There may be other readers who are far more legally literate than I on this point. If so, I look forward to reading informed comment.

    • Chris says:

      Yes, it seems the High Court actually does review evidence and will overturn convictions based on evidence. It gives some hope for the wrongfully convicted, but, as you say, makes some prior decisions like that on SNF seem even more baffling.

      • Geraldine Allan says:

        Having now discussed the comparisons of Pell & SN-F HCA applications with an informed source, I now believe there is no comparison in them. Different grounds.

    • Ross says:

      @Ger, can I join your band as (me) another “legally non-literate”

      “The feeding frenzy of the anti-Pell media and the Catholic church’s low standing in relation to child sexual abuse together contributed to the jury not ‘acting rationally’.

      The High Court 7 to 0 says it all. Now, onto SNF.

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