November 16th 2019

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COVER STORY Extinction Rebellion: So, it's goodnight to us and a big welcome to mega-bucks

EDITORIAL A second chance to secure Australia's future

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Early UK election will be another Brexit vote

CANBERRA OBSERVED Struggle is on not to let censorship have the last word

GENDER POLITICS Children are being given drugs that are dangerous even for elite athletes

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Thoroughbreds are literally racing for their lives

POLITICAL COMMENTARY Tony Abbott continues faithful to the broad Liberal church

MILITARY HISTORY Timor-Leste a free nation 20 years after INTERFET

CLIMATE SCIENCE V XR Is a tipping point close or is the emergency contrived?

RENEWABLE ENERGY Whatever happened to the World Solar Challenge?

ASIAN AFFAIRS How long has China's Red Dynasty really got?

HUMOUR Vote 1 for the Troposphere

MUSIC Genre fatigue: Jazz rock arrived with a bang, left with a whisper

CINEMA Terminator: Dark Fate: The heart that makes us human

CINEMA Ride Like a Girl: Celebrating family, faith and fortitude

BOOK REVIEW Quirky look at grand-scale egoism

BOOK REVIEW Clear critique of flaws of globalism



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

South Park Calls Out Transgender Takeover of Women's Sports

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Cardinal Pell's appeal to go to High Court

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, November 16, 2019

The High Court of Australia has granted leave for Cardinal George Pell to appeal against his conviction on sex-abuse charges.

The controversy over the conviction of Cardinal George Pell has not gone away, despite the time that has elapsed since his conviction in December 2018, and sentencing last March.

Cardinal Pell has not been moved to an ordinary prison, as would normally be expected, but remains in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison. He is fighting to clear his name by appealing against his conviction to the High Court, which will hear his case early next year.

On November 13, two justices of the High Court ruled that Cardinal Pell’s application for special leave to appeal against his conviction should be referred to the full court.

They ruled that the application should be dealt with “for argument as on an appeal”. Melbourne University Law Professor Jeremy Gans said the referral was “basically the same” as granting leave to appeal.

Interestingly, on the same day that Cardinal Pell’s application was dealt with, there were 22 applications for special leave. Cardinal Pell’s was the only one granted.

The trials of Cardinal Pell raise real doubts about the legal system in Victoria, given the fact that Cardinal Pell was convicted on the evidence of a single complainant, whose testimony was contested at every point, and contradicted by other witnesses.

He claimed that he and another chorister were sexually assaulted in St Patrick’s Cathedral after Sunday Solemn Mass in December 1996. The other boy died in 2014 of a heroin overdose, but had previously told his mother, who was desperately trying to find a cause for her son’s drug addiction, that he had not been molested.

At the trial, there were over 20 witnesses who were also present on the occasion of the alleged assault who not only did not corroborate his testimony but actually contradicted it.

Most of the other witnesses’ evidence was not contested by the prosecution.

The jury verdict was a reflection of mass hysteria generated in the community through the media, which saw Cardinal Pell repeatedly verbally abused while entering the court.

The trial judge referred to this at the sentencing, saying that Cardinal Pell had been the target “of a witch hunt or a lynch mob”.

Read here articles from News Weekly and elsewhere about the original trials of Cardinal George Pell.

Based on the guilty verdict, he sentenced Cardinal Pell to a term of six years imprisonment, with a minimum term of thee years and eight months.

An appeal against the conviction to Victoria’s highest court, the Court of Appeal, failed when two of the three judges found that the complainant was “a witness of truth”. They did not, however, draw the logical conclusion that the other 20 or more witnesses must have been telling lies.

The dissenting judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, said: “Objectively speaking, this was always going to be a problematic case. The complainant’s allegations against the applicant were, to one degree or another, implausible. In the case of the second incident, even that is an understatement.

“That is not so by reason of the complainant having alleged that he had been sexually abused, in the past, by a senior Catholic cleric. Sadly, as we have come to appreciate, there is nothing wholly improbable about allegations of that kind being true.

“It is, rather, by reason of the detailed circumstances that were said to have surrounded those allegations of abuse, circumstances as to time, place and manner.

“I am quite unconvinced by [Crown barrister] Mr Boyce’s submission that the complainant’s evidence was so compelling, either when viewed as a whole, or when regard is had to his distressed response to Mr Richter’s vigorous cross-examination, that I should put aside all of the factors that point to his account as being unreliable.”

Justice Weinberg said that he found the evidence of the cathedral witnesses credible, and pointed out that any one of them, if accepted, would have led to an acquittal.

Read articles from News Weekly and other sources on Cardinal Pell's appeal in the Victorian Supreme Court here.

Since then, further evidence has come forward supporting Cardinal Pell.

Two women who worked at the cathedral at the time have come forward to say that they believed the allegations were “impossible”.

Neither of them was interviewed by police investigating the matter, nor called as witnesses at Cardinal Pell’s trials.

The two women who said they were present in the cathedral for Sunday Solemn Masses in December 1996, Lil Sinozic and Jean Cornish, have also expressed disappointment that Cardinal Pell’s defence team did not call them as witnesses in the trial.

Catholic News Agency interviewed the two teachers and said that Lil Sinozic, a former teacher and executive assistant to then Father – now Monsignor – Charles Portelli, who was then-Archbishop Pell’s master of ceremonies, echoed the defence, insisting that the circumstances of the alleged crimes as presented to the jury simply did not add up.

“I just know for a fact that what they’re describing could not have happened, given the situation in the sacristy after Mass … to say that there was this five-minute interval where these acts were performed, and nobody saw or heard anything, is ridiculous.

“I don’t know why the jury was led to believe otherwise,” she told CNA.

Her account was confirmed by Jean Cornish, a former principal of Good Shepherd Catholic School in Melbourne.

In December 1996, Ms Cornish was on secondment to the Archdiocese, and later served as project director for the Archbishop and cathedral manager.

She had complete access to all parts of the cathedral, attended Sunday Solemn Masses at the cathedral, and was therefore present when the alleged offences took place. She was therefore perfectly placed to observe anything that went on in the cathedral precinct.

She said the Archbishop would always spend a great deal of time shaking hands and greeting people after Mass, even as protestors sometimes made their presence known with placards, shouting slogans such as, “Pell, go to hell” and “We will get you, Pell, no matter what”.

Ms Cornish also said she was in the habit of observing the activities and movement of people in the cathedral’s sacristy area.

“This was something I had learned to do even in the short two months I had been there, as the main sacristy corridor door was open to allow the altar servers, the assistant sacristan, and Alan the florist, as well as others who attended to the sanctuary and sacred vessels, to access the area freely.”

Cornish said she believes that the area where the abuse allegedly occurred was the “busiest and most open” of the sacristy areas, and reiterated that Archbishop Pell was never alone before, during, or after a Sunday Mass.

The High Court has recently heard cases that bear some similarity to Cardinal Pell’s.

Early in November, the High Court overruled the conviction of Steven Fennell, who had been convicted by a Queensland jury of murder in 2012.

The accused was charged just four days after an elderly woman he was acquainted with was murdered, although there was no direct evidence against him, and the circumstantial evidence was, the High Court said, “extremely weak”.

It is clear that the police – who found no DNA or forensic evidence linking him with the crime – were convinced he was the killer, regardless of the evidence.

The conviction went on appeal to Queensland’s highest court in 2017, which unanimously confirmed the conviction in 2017. He then appealed to the High Court, which considered the case over two years later.

The High Court said: “The Crown case concerning opportunity and motive was extremely weak.” It found that key evidence regarding the alleged murder weapon was “glaringly improbable for numerous reasons”.

The High Court said: “The court may take into account the realities of human experience, including the fallibility and plasticity of memory, especially as time passes, the possibility of contamination of recollection, and the influence of internal biases on memory.

“The court can also take into account the well-known scientific research that has revealed the difficulties and inaccuracies involved in assessing credibility and reliability.

“And especially is that so in a case like this, where the jury has been subjected to the seductive effects of a species of identification evidence that has in the past led to miscarriages of justice.”

The High Court ruled that the Queensland Court of Appeal had erred in confirming the conviction, and ordered that Mr Fennell be released immediately.

The other case involved an appeal to the High Court by Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecution in the Tyrrell case.

Brother John Tyrrell had been convicted of sexual abuse of a child in 2018, and sentenced to 11 years imprisonment. However, his conviction was overturned by the Court of Appeal in March 2019.

Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) sought leave to appeal to the High Court, but the High Court ruled against the DPP last August.

The High Court said: “We direct the Registrar to draw up, sign and seal an order dismissing the application.”

In relation to Cardinal Pell’s appeal, it is unknown when it will go before the High Court but, with the Christmas-New Year legal recess commencing in about a month and other cases already set down for hearing, it is expected to be some time after February, 2020.

Readers can send Christmas cards or write letters of encouragement to Cardinal Pell at the following address:
Melbourne Assessment Prison,
317 Spencer Street West Melbourne, Victoria 3003.

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