How faith was lost on judgment day for a state legal system

How faith was lost on judgment day for a state legal system, by Paul Kelly.

It is an extraordinary judgment. The power, logic and suasion lies in the 200-page minority judgment by Mark Weinberg, a former commonwealth director of public prosecutions and the most experienced of the three judges in criminal law. Weinberg’s dissent is long and closely reasoned. Weinberg has ensured that grave doubts about Pell’s guilt will not be dissipated by the 2-1 verdict against him. …

A reading of the entire judgment suggests the majority case is flawed and less convincing than the minority. …

The political imperative:

The Pell trial has never been about the egregious crimes of the Catholic Church in relation to sexual abuse of children. It is about only one issue: whether Pell is a sexual predator. Yet these two elements seem difficult, almost impossible, to separate, and this tension seems embedded in the legal process and Court of Appeal decision. …

These judgments cannot be separated from the social upheaval as exposed by the 2017 Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse that documented extensive crimes of sexual abuse by institutions, notably the Catholic Church, serial cover-ups, abuses of power and refusal to believe the victims when they came forward. …

The new standard: believe the victim of sex crimes, no matter how unlikely?

Weinberg goes to the narrow basis of the prosecution case: “In the present case the prosecution relied entirely upon the evidence of the complainant to establish guilt and nothing more. There was no supporting evidence of any kind from any other witness. Indeed, there was no supporting evidence of any kind at all. These convictions were based upon the jury’s assessment of the complainant as a witness and nothing more. …

And the judicial majority believed the victim against Pell. The prosecution depended on the complainant’s testimony, delivered by video in the first trial. Because it was recorded and used in the second trial there was no second cross-examination. No other evidence was required, no witnesses, no corroboration. The Ferguson-Maxwell majority had no doubt. They accepted the prosecution argument that the complainant “came across as someone who was telling the truth” — that he “was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth”.

His word was accepted over that of Pell and the substantial body of evidence produced by Pell’s legal team. That team outlined in evidence 13 factual obstacles in the path of conviction with the Ferguson-Maxwell majority rejecting all 13.

One lawyer close to these events told me: “The word of complainants is now regarded as near infallible.” During the trial various inconsistencies by the complainant were explained away by the prosecution as the established reactions by sexual abuse victims.

How unlikely?

In Weinberg’s judgment, he refers to the argument made by Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter, in his final address to the jury reminding them “there were literally dozens of people, including a number of adults who would have been congregating around the area of the priests’ sacristy shortly after the conclusion of Sunday solemn mass. Anyone could have walked into that room at any time and immediately seen what was going on … …

By abusing two boys at once it meant if one made a complaint the other could corroborate it. Richter said only a “madman” would have attempted such abuse immediately after Sunday mass. …

In his trial submission Richter said a large number of “independently improbable if not ‘impossible’ things” would need to have had to occur within a very short timeframe (perhaps 10 minutes) “if the complainant’s account of the first incident were true”. A long list followed.

It included evidence by the assistant priest, Charles Portelli, and sacristan, Maxwell Potter, to the effect that they accompanied Pell after mass and that it was, in effect, impossible for him to have found himself alone as described by the complainant. Weinberg said: “Even a mere ‘reasonable possibility’, unrebutted by the prosecution, that what Portelli and Potter said might be both truthful and accurate, would give rise to a complete defence and would necessitate an acquittal.”

But the majority judges who found him guilty came to the politically correct decision: the Catholic Church is guilty of sex crimes. (Not some gay or pedophile individuals within that Church mind you, but the Catholic Church.)

What hope for justice is there if you are an enemy of the people administrative state? Anyone can find an excuse, charge you with anything, and bang you are thrown in jail by some PC judges, with most of the commentariat muttering that you deserved it anyway.

How times change. The Spanish Inquisition used to torture their victim to get a “confession” out of them. Nowadays, the administrative state coaches someone who could be a victim of sexual impropriety, and get them to “confess” in court about “crimes” committed by the target. The victim must be believed — no matter how preposterous the story — so the target goes to jail. Progress!

Michael Smith makes a case that under the new standards of prosecution and guilt established for Cardinal Pell, Bill Shorten’s rape case should be re-excamined.