Pell quarantine thread

The High Court will bring down its judgement on George Pell’s appeal against his conviction on child sex abuse offences. Since this may generate vigorous discussion of at most tangential relevance to this blog’s core subject, I ask that those wishing to argue the toss do so here.

Author: William Bowe

William Bowe is a Perth-based election analyst and occasional teacher of political science. His blog, The Poll Bludger, has existed in one form or another since 2004, and is one of the most heavily trafficked websites on Australian politics.

191 comments on “Pell quarantine thread”

  1. But does this mean the complainant should be prosecuted for perjury?

    No. There is no evidence that the complainant knowingly gave false testimony.

    The High Court is not saying that the complainant is not credible, consistent, and reliable. They are saying that the complainant’s evidence is not enough for a reasonable jury to convict, because in the High Court’s view the prosecution’s evidence about Pell’s lack of opportunity to offend was strong enough to establish a reasonable doubt that the offences occurred.

  2. Just saw a good take, effectively the High Court has decided it believes Pell, who didn’t even give evidence, doesn’t trust the jury, and doesn’t believe the victim.

    Kind of justifies the most extreme (who I do not support) #metoo activists, they know from cruel experience that their only chance of any justice is DIY justice.

    We are so broken.

  3. Bucephalus: “Big A Adrian

    So, you think that the principle of being found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt should be dropped in criminal cases or just in ones where you don’t like the defendant?”

    Strawman.

    Obviously my beef is with the assessment of what constitutes “beyond a reasonable doubt”.

    My interpretation of this case is that the HC judges judged on the principle of “beyond a doubt” and took out the ‘reasonable’ part.

    The only objection to the original verdict I have heard anyone mention was the short time and the apparent location, which the Pell side will insist was a veritable thoroughfair.

    These issues unquestionably created doubts about the allegation. But it certainly didn’t mean that it was impossible, or even unlikely. Its about weighing those doubts against the evidence that it did happen.

    My personal and rather uninformed opinion is that if every convicted sexual abuser was able to go to the High Court and get judged on the same criteria that Pell was judged on, then there probably wouldn’t be a single sexual abuser in gaol in the country. Because lets face it, when is there ever more than the victim’s witness testimony to convict sexual abusers? And mostly they get away with it because the investigators won’t even get that.

    We have to be reasonable about what constitutes ‘reasonable doubt’

  4. The High Court is not saying that the complainant is not credible, consistent, and reliable. They are saying that the complainant’s evidence is not enough for a reasonable jury to convict, because in the High Court’s view the prosecution’s evidence about Pell’s lack of opportunity to offend was strong enough to establish a reasonable doubt that the offences occurred.

    It is just legalese for the same thing, if you believe, as did the Jury in the process approved by the appeal court, that the complainant was telling the truth, then the defence’s evidence, suggesting they could not be, does not raise any doubt at all.

    It is a value judgement of the two kinds of evidence, and it expressly discounts / repudiates the credibility of the witness.

    It is saying the jury could not rationally exclude reasonable doubt about the honesty of the victim.

  5. “Do you have a better system?

    Just believe all allegations?”

    honest question: what else besides the victim’s say-so was Pell’s original conviction based on?

    If I’m not mistaken, an awful lot of abusers are convicted on very little more than “just believing the allegations”.

  6. William must be busy elsewhere or taking a very laissez faire approach to the legal implications of posts today given the statements by Puffy and Goldens that are being allowed.

  7. Bucephalus,
    You should be ashamed of yourself. If you want to stand on that side of the decency line, so be it. Just because a panel of oldies freed another old white, powerful male on tissue grounds, does not mean I will stand over there with you.

    I have too much integrity to do that.
    I stand with the victim. May he take be comforted to know that he brought these allegations to light, and tested our court system.

    I praise him for that, and thank him for trying. I am grateful.

  8. HistoryinTime,

    Not really. It takes a lot to challenge a system that almost guarantees sexual abuse victims no recourse. Why do you think these victims almost never come forward? They know the lay of the land. The High Court convicted themselves.

  9. Puffytmd: SNIP

    That sounds like a problem with the sentencing process rather than that through which verdicts are determined.

    I’ve ranted enough on PB about the pathetic sentences given out by our judges for outrageous acts of crime, but that sounds like a particularly egregious example. And the idea that the extent to which a child was/wasn’t being supervised had any relevance to the severity of a criminal act is a horrendous absurdity.

    One good bit of news: I think the extent of public outcry in the Eurydice Dixon and Aiia Maasarwe cases has put a bit more pressure on judges to give out appropriate sentences for these types of crimes. There was perhaps a time when Maasarwe’s killer in particular might have expected some leniency based on his life story, but that doesn’t appear to have happened.

  10. A world in which you always believe the complainant, when there is no other substantive evidence, is pretty horrible to me. Plenty of people have axes to grind or are just plain mad. Innocent until proven guilty as they say and in this case the highest court of the land decided unanimously.

  11. Of course, another implication ofvthis case is that the jury got it absolutely correct… the FIRST jury, that is, the one that couldn’t agree on a verdict.

  12. Mixed feelings, to put it mildly.

    Higher courts overriding jury decisions is always going to be problematic, though I accept it will occasionally be necessary.

    Conviction on uncorroborated accuser’s testimony alone is always going to be problematic at best. It is just too easy for malicious actors to exploit.

    But that makes getting legitimate convictions for the very serious crime of sexual assault much more difficult, especially for child victims.

    I can’t see any way around this. There are inherent limitations on safe prosecutions. Wherever the line is drawn there will be false convictions/acquittals, especially in sexual assault cases. That seems completely unavoidable in principle. All we can do is try to minimise them in practice.

    I have no sympathy for Pell, even if innocent of this particular crime. He is a nasty creep who at the very least is clearly complicit in the covering up of sexual crimes of others.

  13. Puffy,

    I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a foundation stone of our justice system and I am pleased to see the High Court upholding it.

    You on the other hand should consider your legal position and get William to delete your defamatory post.

  14. Meher Baba. Saying that Stalin and Mao Tse Tung were ‘left wing’ is simply inane. They were dictators that ruled by terror. Any opposition was ‘disappeared’. By your standard Pinochet was ‘left wing’.

  15. Historyintime @ #116 Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 – 1:51 pm

    A world in which you always believe the complainant, when there is no other substantive evidence, is pretty horrible to me. Plenty of people have axes to grind or are just plain mad. Innocent until proven guilty as they say and in this case the highest court of the land decided unanimously.

    The verdict didn’t ‘prove’ anything, apart from the fact that the whole legal process is flawed as a mechanism for finding out whether an accusation is true. ‘Innocent until proven guilty’ is a fine sounding nonsense, but in fact the innocent are innocent, whether they are found guilty or not, and the guilty are likewise guilty, whether they re found to be, or not.

    The idea that our police forces are bastions of integrity is just ludicrous. The idea that magistrates are paragons of virtue and wisdom is also ludicrous, and has been pointed out by many of our lawyer brethren on here, QC’s, SC’s and judges can be excellent examples of good bullshit artists promoted well beyond their capabilities. Callahan and Dyson Heydon are classic examples of judges with patently defective reasoning powers (in my flawed, biased and useless opinion, of course).

    The vast majority of the population cannot possibly afford to get enmeshed in our legal system, even to defend themselves from a false traffic fine. The net result is an almost complete failure of the ‘system’ to deliver what it is ostensibly supposed to do, ie fair and equal justice. Twelve year old indigenous kids end up in adult prisons for stealing a can of Coke, and those with enough money game the system, aided and abetted by the self-serving majority of the legal profession.

  16. I wonder if Justice Peter McClellan still retains control of the RC report. I reckon he’d like the hidden stuff to be released now.

  17. Yabba,

    It doesn’t cost anything to go to court and defend yourself against a false traffic fine – I did it once and won.

  18. yabba,

    You don’t end up in custody for stealing one can of coke on a first offence. You do end up in custody for stealing a can of coke when you have a criminal record that rivals War and Peace.

    I recall some years ago an ABC story where an Academic was interviewed about the proposition that Aboriginal people got much larger sentences when compared to non-Aboriginals for the same offence. He ended up acknowledging that previous criminal record was ignored in making the comparison- which made it meaningless because that is always part of the sentencing decision making.

  19. IMO, Pell was up on the wrong charges.

    If the Law does not a charge of failure in duty of care, such a charge should be introduced.

    In Pell’s case, the failures are massive and have had horrendous consequences.

    Pell was the CEO of a division of a large global organization in which thousands of employees raped thousands of members tens of thousands of times.

    Pell’s Division was down there with the worst of the other divisions.

    Any decent CEO would apologize, resign, and go and live in a cave on bread and water to expiate his horrendous management failings.

  20. What the right wingers routinely ignore because it does not fit their story lines is that rates of policing of Indigenous people are at least an order of magnitude larger than that of non-Indigenous people.

    Further, they also ignore that the crimes of the likes of Robert and Abbott, who were allowed to give back gifts of $50,000 gold watches are simply laughed off by the members of the most corrupt Federal Government since Federation.

    The inherent racism in ignoring these lacunae is, IMO, self-evident.

  21. Boerwar,

    Aboriginal communities have horrendous rates of Domestic Violence and Child Abuse. Are you saying that the level of Policing should be reduced because it’s racist to allocate Police resources where the need is greatest?

  22. B
    I lived in Indigenous communities for ten years and worked with Indigenous people in various ways for another twenty years.
    I am not sure why you are ignoring my two valid points.

  23. We have learnt this year that our civics education is atrocious. The community don’t understand the Constitution and the relationship between the States and the Federal Government or their responsibilities in particular with respect to DACC.

    Now we also discover that many don’t understand the principle of guilt beyond reasonable doubt nor the role of the High Court.

  24. Boerwar

    I did address your first point.

    I ignored your comment about the Rolexes because it is irrelevant and not supported by the facts.

  25. Bucephalus @ #141 Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 – 5:04 pm

    We have learnt this year that our civics education is atrocious. The community don’t understand the Constitution and the relationship between the States and the Federal Government or their responsibilities in particular with respect to DACC.

    Now we also discover that many don’t understand the principle of guilt beyond reasonable doubt nor the role of the High Court.

    Don’t beat yourself up over it, Buce! 🙂

  26. Bucephalus

    Now we also discover that many don’t understand the principle of guilt beyond reasonable doubt nor the role of the High Court.

    This is quite funny when you demonstrated your own lack of understanding in an earlier post:

    If you are acquitted then you are not guilty.
    I can’t see how he could be found guilty on the balance of probabilities.

    The first statement is quite wrong. If you are acquitted all it means is that the evidence was not sufficient to prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Civil cases are, sometimes at least, decided on the balance of probabilities. It is quite possible for evidence to meet this standard but not meet the requirement of “beyond a reasonable doubt”. You should google this stuff before posting. That way you can might avoid demonstrating your profound ignorance.

  27. Jolyon,

    I am aware that civil cases are decided upon the balance of probabilities. As I said I don’t believe he should be found guilty on that basis (as well as the beyond reasonable doubt). But I could be wrong.

    Nice snark, though.

  28. Bucephalus.
    You are a disgrace. You represent a section of our society that I would never associate with, if I could help it. You should being ringing a bell everywhere you walk, so decent people would know to avoid you.

    Bucephalus @ #126 Tuesday, April 7th, 2020 – 1:39 pm

    Puffy,

    I have absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt is a foundation stone of our justice system and I am pleased to see the High Court upholding it.

    You on the other hand should consider your legal position and get William to delete your defamatory post.

  29. William,
    Can you please delete my post about the attack on the child. In hindsight, it is not my story to tell and I regret posting it.
    Thank you in advance.
    PuffyTMD.

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