Keith Windschuttle not only destroys the prosecution case against Cardinal Pell but shows to what farcical depths the Australian legal system has degenerated. Legally, the world must think Australia has not progressed beyond the era of the Rum Rebellion – though that may be to insult John Macarthur and the New South Wales Corps.
The Crown Prosecutor’s Retraction
Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction of historical sexual abuse of two choirboys will be heard before the full High Court of Australia on March 11. Pell’s conviction in a Melbourne county court in December 2018 was affirmed by the Victorian Court of Appeal in August 2019. The conviction was for two incidents of abuse that allegedly occurred in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, in December 1996 and February 1997.
As several writers in Quadrant have recorded over the past twelve months, the conviction of Pell is one of the worst miscarriages of justice in Australian history. This is not just because of his status at the time as the most senior figure in the Catholic Church in this country, but also because it breached the fundamental legal principle that an accused person is innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not how George Pell was treated either at his trial or in his first appeal. The jurors did not make their decision on the weight of evidence by more than twenty witnesses, who demonstrated that Pell could not possibly have done what the complainant said. Instead, the jurors accepted the sole evidence of the accuser, given in camera, with his identity shielded, and without corroboration of any kind. A two-to-one majority of judges in the Victorian Court of Appeal confirmed both the process and the decision.