Category Archives: Law

False charges, unjust sentence and solitary confinement – Australia’s shame

My Time in Prison

George Cardinal Pell, First Things, August 2020

There is a lot of goodness in prisons. At times, I am sure, prisons may be hell on earth. I was fortunate to be kept safe and treated well. I was impressed by the professionalism of the warders, the faith of the prisoners, and the existence of a moral sense even in the darkest places.

I was in solitary confinement for thirteen months, ten at the Melbourne Assessment Prison and three at Barwon Prison. In Melbourne the prison uniform was a green tracksuit, but in Barwon I was issued the bright red colors of a cardinal. I had been convicted in December 2018 of historical sexual offenses against children, despite my innocence, and despite the incoherence of the Crown Prosecutor’s case against me. ­Eventually (in April of this year) the High Court of Australia was to quash my convictions in a unanimous ­ruling. In the meantime, I began to serve my sentence of six years.

In Melbourne, I lived in Cell 11, Unit 8, on the fifth floor. My cell was seven or eight meters long and about two meters wide, just enough for my bed, which had a firm base, a not-too-thick mattress, and two blankets. On the left as you entered were low shelves with a kettle, television, and eating space. Across the narrow aisle was a basin with hot and cold water and a shower recess with good hot water. Unlike in many posh hotels, an efficient reading lamp was in the wall above the bed. Since both my knees had been replaced a couple of months before entering prison, I used a walking stick initially and was given a higher hospital chair, which was a blessing. Health regulations require each prisoner to have an hour outside each day, and so I was allowed to take two half-hours in Melbourne. Nowhere in Unit 8 was there clear glass, so I could recognize day from night, but not much more, from my cell. I never saw the eleven other prisoners.

Read the rest here…

Probing Victoria Police and the Royal Commission

Douglas Drummond, former Queensland Special Prosecutor and a judge on the Federal Court of Australia, has written a powerful piece, fearlessly probing the record of Victoria Police (in particular about the Pell jailing) and the Royal Commission into institutional child sexual abuse. He is to be commended.

The frightening bias of VicPol and the commission continues to unfold. Australia needs a thorough investigation into the background of the country’s worst ever miscarriage of justice. What happened to Cardinal Pell could happen to anyone.

I have added a tab on Victoria Police to the Cardinal Pell section of my website.

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The Unexplored Shame of Victoria Police

by Douglas Drummond, Quadrant, 3 July 2020

The Catholic Church and its bishops have been subjected to a lot of deserved criticism by the Royal Commission, the media, survivors and others for their failures to deal with the sexual abuse of children by priests, particularly over the decades from the 1960s to the 1990s. Victoria Police has largely escaped criticism, though it made similar failures during this same period.

At the first public session of the Commission in August 2015, it said that, as well as religious institutions, were police force were one of the types of institutions it would be investigating.

Catholic Diocese of Ballarat

In its Final Report in Case Study 28, the Royal Commission said: “The scope and purpose of Part Two of that case study involving the Ballarat Diocese was to inquire into:

1. the response of the Diocese and of other Catholic Church authorities in Ballarat to allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy or religious

2. the response of Victoria Police to allegations of child sexual abuse against clergy or religious which took place within the Catholic Diocese of Ballarat”.

The Commission made a full inquiry into the first item. But its inquiry into the second item was in a number of respects surprisingly deficient.

Gerald Ridsdale

Ridsdale (right) was probably the worst of the many paedophile priests in Victoria, if not Australia. Much of his offending took place in parishes in the Ballarat Diocese. The Commission noted Ridsdale was convicted in 1993, and later, of sexual offences against a total of 65 children as young as four which occurred from the 1960s until the 1980s. This was only part of his criminal activities: according to The Age report of June 14, 2002, [“Ballarat’s good men of the cloth”] just before his first trial in 1993, Ridsdale told his family of his crimes. One family member asked: “How many, Gerald. Four, or five?” “Hundreds,” was his reply.

Read the rest here…

Cdl Pell and the tower of Pisa commission

The Royal Commission into institutional child sex abuse leant so far leftwards that it threatened to fall over. Like the Tower of Pisa, the Commission needs some remedial work to prop it up. Chris Friel probes the Get Pell fiasco.

The Royal Commission as a Weapon

Chris S Friel

The Get Pell shot-gun has two barrels, Operation Tethering, the fishing expedition that looked for abuses that the Cardinal himself had committed and, set up at roughly the same time, the Victorian and then Royal Commissions into institutional child sex abuse that focussed on places where Pell lived, Ballarat and Melbourne. This essay will take a look at one aspect of a report on the latter.

The Cardinal was acquitted by the High Court of Australia last month and so the Royal Commission released its previously unredacted sections.i These include references to Pell in “Case 35”on the Archdiocese of Melbourne that among other things relate how he handled Peter Searson when in1989 he received a delegation from concerned teachers. My focus will be the way the commissioners tried to support their findings in the light of the evidence. I will explore the question of whether that evidence was weaponised as part of the Get Pell project.

Reading through the report there is no doubt that it is Archbishop Little who is damned for his abject failure to protect children. But as the Twittersphere was quick to point out, the then Auxiliary Bishop was criticised too. One example suffices to make the point:

This is KEY. The commission found “It was incumbent on Pell … with responsibilities for the welfare of the children … to take such action that [pedophile] Father Searson be removed or, at least, a thorough investigation be undertaken.” Searson died in 2009 without facing charges.i

In response, Pell made a statement that included the following:

As an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne 1987-96, Bishop Pell met with a delegation from Doveton Parish in 1989 which did not mention sexual assaults and did not ask for Searson’s removal. Appointed Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 August 1996, Archbishop Pell placed Fr Searson on administrative leave in March 1997 and removed him from the parish on 15 May 1997. iii 

Pell expressed surprise at the findings, but in truth they were eagerly awaited by his opponents who correctly sensed that the unredacted version was like Hamlet without the prince. Thus, Louise Milligan had a couple of chapters on the episode in her book, and she was ready with a thread when the full version was finally released.iv

Read the rest here…

The Royal Commission and the Get-Pell campaign

Lawyer Michael McAuley has written a devastating critique of the Royal Commission’s treatment of Cardinal Pell. In brief, he argues convincingly that the evidence does not support the commission’s findings against the cardinal. He concluded the commission morphed into the Get-Pell campaign, the campaign that resulted in sending an innocent man into solitary confinement for more than a year, destroyed his health, and left him vocationally and socially liquidated.

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Was the Royal Commission hand in glove with the “Get Pell” campaign?

A close study of its “findings” reveals serious flaws

Michael McAuley, Mercatornet, 29 May 2020

After Cardinal George Pell’s successful appeal against his conviction for sexual abuse, the “Get Pell” campaign died down. But the release of three unredacted reports of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has given it a second wind.

Although they were not directly relevant, these documents were redacted because they might have prejudicially swayed the juries in the Cardinal’s two trials.

In the redacted text, the Royal Commission effectively accused Cardinal Pell of lying about two important meetings involving abusive priests. His position was that he was deceived about their sexual abuse in both instances. The Royal Commission contended that this was implausible. Armed with this criticism, Pell’s critics are having a field day.

The Royal Commission is a mixed bag. It got much right — and some things seriously wrong, especially his knowledge of the crimes of two serious abusers, Gerald Ridsdale and Peter Searson. Its findings should be compared to a 2015 inquiry by the Family Development Committee of the Victorian Parliament, Betrayal of Trust: Inquiry Into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Non Government Organisations. That inquiry made no finding against Pell, although it was critical of other Church leaders.

Read the rest here…

PM Morrison carried along by the Pell-haters

Prime Minister Scott Morrison is a good man and a prime minister that conservatives should be relieved to see in the position. It was fortunate he was there to step forward after the terrible Turnbull turmoil. So, it was sad to hear him treat Cardinal Pell as guilty long before the legal process had run its course.

Outstandingly credentialled (in law) Augusto Zimmerman catalogues in the article below the series of Morrison’s rash ill-considered comments about Cardinal Pell’s assumed guilt. Why was he so careless? The answer seems to be that the combined forces of Pell-haters (ABC, Age, SMH, Milligan, Fitzsimons, Marr, etc. etc) had him cowed. Augusto Zimmermann is right. The prime minister owes Cardinal Pell a deep regretful public apology.

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Why ScoMo Owes Cardinal Pell an Apology (And to Every Victim of a Miscarriage of Justice in Australia)

Augusto Zimmermann, The Caldron Pool, 25 May 2020

The High Court’s unanimous acquittal of Cardinal George Pell, after two previous judicial rulings that failed to acknowledge a reasonable doubt as to the defendant’s guilt, appears to indicate that the administration of justice in Australia has been corrupted by a desire to persecute and punish, not prosecute justly.

There has been a strong odour of miscarriage of justice about the whole matter. However, when Cardinal Pell was still awaiting trial, the Australian Prime Minister implied his guilt by making statements about those who ‘abused the shield of faith and religion to hide their crimes shall stand condemned’.[1]

Before the High Court finally overruled the Cardinal’s conviction, Scott Morrison stated: ‘Our justice system has affirmed no Australian is above the law’.[2]  Mr Morrison also stated that ‘the courts had done their work well’.

Read the rest here…

The Royal commission – no justice for Cdl Pell

Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute has been at the forefront of the sustained criticism of the royal commission into clerical child sexual abuse and the legal fiasco of Cardinal Pell’s trials. He has taken apart the arguments condemning the cardinal. In particular, he destroyed the case run by Louise Milligan, leaving that deluded ABC flunkey nothing to say other than that Henderson defends paedophiles. That’s her stock reply to criticisms she cannot answer.

In his latest article about Cardinal Pell and the royal commission, Henderson is no less compelling in his criticism after the release of the redacted pages, the last great hope of the Pell-haters. His irresistible conclusion is that the Cardinal was denied justice.

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Royal commission denies George Pell legal justice

Gerard Henderson

The Sydney Institute, MAY 17, 2020

The ignorance of some journalists never seems to surprise. Take, for example, the release last week of the non-redacted report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse covering its case studies in the Catholic diocese of Ballarat and archdiocese of Melbourne.

Sections of both reports had been delayed pending the result of the outcome of the charges laid against Cardinal George Pell for historical child sexual abuse when he was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997. On April 7, in a unanimous decision, the High Court quashed Pell’s conviction.

Many of Pell’s media critics, who were disappointed with his acquittal, looked forward to the release of the royal commission’s findings, which they expected to be hostile to Pell. They were not disappointed. Nor should they have expected to be, in view of the hostile reception Pell faced during his appearances before the royal commission comprising close to 20 hours — especially from counsel assisting Gail Furness SC.

Immediately after its release, Nine Entertainment’s Peter FitzSimons, a leading Pell antagonist, referred to the report as “a judgment”. No, it wasn’t. A royal commission is not a court of law. Moreover, in this instance, half of its members did not have legal qualifications.

Royal commissions make findings, not judgments. And their burden of proof is far lower than guilt beyond reasonable doubt. It’s closer to the balance of probabilities that prevails in civil cases.

Read the rest here…

Cardinal Pell and mob rule

Pillars of justice abandoned in mob pursuit of George Pell

HENRY ERGAS, The Australian

No matter how dramatic its ­current impacts, the COVID-19 pandemic may, 10 years from now, seem like a seismic shock that strikes, devastates and then recedes, allowing reconstruction to begin.

The case of Cardinal George Pell, on the other hand, highlights a sickness in the body politic that is all the more dangerous for being ongoing, widespread and deeply entrenched.

After all, more than a month has passed since the High Court quashed Cardinal Pell’s conviction, reversing the decision of Victoria’s highest court of appeal. That the Victorian Court of Appeal made grievous errors of law is undeniable. It is, moreover, every bit as certain that those errors capped a long series of missteps, stretching from the initial investigation to the decision to prosecute.

Read the rest…

The redacted pages – The lynch mob goes on the attack

It was no surprise to see the contemptible David Marr give vent to his mind-disturbed anti-Catholic biogtry on the release of the unredacted pages of the Royal Commission’s report about Cardinal Pell. It does not matter how tenuous the connection or how faulty the reasoning the Marr-type will exploit it to its maximum. Of course, the delusional hysterical Louise Milligan was right there with him also giving vent to her hate-filled twisted opinions.

There are three basic issues for me about the Royal Commission. First the RC’s unseemly aggression towards Cardinal Pell as if they had already made a judgement regardless of what he would say. Second, the totally disproportionate focus on the cardinal as if they had already made a judgement. Third, if Cardinal Pell’s counter to the accusations that he ‘knew’ were ‘implausible’ or ‘inconceivable’, why just him?

Remember that Cardinal Pell was an assistant priest in the 1970s and the early years of the 1980s, and a bishop with limited authority and responsibilities in the 1980s. The commission’s pages create a surreal picture of Fr Pell knowing while everyone else in the close company of the abusers wandered around like ghosts unaccountably oblivious to those same acts. Former priest and leftist scribbler Paul Bongiorno lived with the worst abuser Gerald Ridsdale as did Fr Pell. Nothing to see there, though, for the commission.

I find the use of the words ‘implausible’ and ‘inconceivable’ inappropriate and degrading of the RC’s purpose. The ready response to these two words about Cardinal Pell’s explanations is: ‘says who?’ Indeed, the use of ‘inconceivable’ raises the same issues about reasoning as found in the majority judgment in supreme court appeal. Nothing is inconceivable or impossible except a contradiction. If the RC found Cardinal Pell’s explanations ‘inconceivable’, then that’s just their opinion. The commission was not a court case and the information offered the commission distant and extremely limited. Their view smacks of partiality. It has Daniel Andrews’ sickening odour all over it.

Andrew Bolt covers some of these points in an interview with Peter Westmore who attended of the sessions of cardinal Pell’s trails.

A targeted assassination

NATIONAL AFFAIRS
Cardinal Pell: The story of a targeted assassination

by Patrick Morgan

News Weekly, May 16, 2020

The pile-on against Cardinal Pell, which began when he was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, has now dragged its weary way through a quarter of a century.

It first manifested itself as an internal insurrection when some local liberal Catholics began to object to his alleged personal style as bullying and authoritarian, though this was based on scuttlebutt, as no actual examples were advanced. On the contrary he was himself publicly humiliated by fellow Catholics on a number of occasions. They disliked him primarily because he asserted basic Christian positions, a grievous fault these days in an archbishop.

Read the rest here…

Cardinal Pell responds to the redacted commission papers

STATEMENT FROM CARDINAL GEORGE PELL

 7 May 2020

Cardinal Pell said he was surprised by some of the views of the Royal Commission about his actions. These views are not supported by evidence.

He is especially surprised by the statements in the report about the earlier transfers of Gerald Ridsdale discussed by the Ballarat Diocesan Consultors in 1977 and 82.

The Consultors who gave evidence on the meetings in 1977 and 1982 either said they did not learn of Ridsdale’s offending against children until much later or they had no recollection of what was discussed. None said they were made aware of Ridsdale’s offending at these meetings.

The then Fr Pell left the Diocese of Ballarat and therefore his position as a consultor at the end of 1984.

As an Auxiliary Bishop in Melbourne 1987-96, Bishop Pell met with a delegation from Doveton Parish in 1989 which did not mention sexual assaults and did not ask for Searson’s removal.

Appointed Archbishop of Melbourne on 16 August 1996, Archbishop Pell placed Fr Searson on administrative leave in March 1997 and removed him from the parish on 15 May 1997.

ENDS