QED

George Pell and the Jury

“Thank heavens for the jury system . . . (loud applause) … it’s the protector of everyone in this country, from people who hold high office to every member of the community.”
      
— Lionel Murphy, Labor politician and High Court judge, Canberra Times, April 29, 1986

Lionel Murphy was speaking in Sydney, outside the New South Wales Banco Court immediately after a jury had found him not guilty of attempting to pervert the course of justice. This was the conclusion of one of Australia’s great celebrity trials of the 1980s. Murphy, who had been Attorney-General in the Whitlam government, which appointed him to the High Court, had first faced trial in 1985 on two charges of trying, on behalf of a friend, to improperly influence a district court judge and a stipendiary magistrate. He was acquitted on one charge but found guilty on the other. He appealed and was retried in April 1986 when, after a brief deliberation, the jury found him not guilty.

At the time, I thought that although some of the evidence seemed incriminating, there was enough genuine doubt about Murphy’s intentions to get him off. I was surprised when the first jury found him guilty but thought justice of a rough kind had been done with the second trial’s verdict.

The reliability of juries, I had been taught, lay deep in our past. Reading English history at university convinced me that, in the legal system we inherited in Australia, juries really were the protectors of everyone, a backstop that worked most of the time to preserve justice when all else failed. E.P. Thompson’s The Making of the English Working Class argued that, in the late eighteenth century, when the English governing class was attempting to suppress the publication of the kind of liberal ideas they blamed for the revolution in France, many local political activists relied on juries to defend their right to speak:

the jury system did afford a measure of protection, as Hardy, Horne Tooke, Thelwall and Binns discovered. Wilkes was able to defy King, Parliament and administration — and to establish important new precedents — by using alternately, the law courts and the mob … Even in the 1790s, each attempt to introduce a ‘continental’ spy system, each suspension of Habeas Corpus, each attempt to pack juries, aroused an outcry beyond the reformers’ own ranks.

This was still a common belief of people of my generation and Murphy’s praise of juries in 1986 was a not unfamiliar theme. Despite a handful of much-publicised cases where juries got it wrong — Lindy and Michael Chamberlain, in particular — a unanimous verdict by twelve randomly selected members of the public was still widely regarded as about as fair a finding, from as fair a sample of the population, as was practically possible.

The decision in the George Pell case suggests that Australian juries are no longer what they once were. In this case, finding the defendant guilty of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral did not involve balancing competing scales of evidence and argument and delivering a finding beyond a reasonable doubt. Enough of this case has already been publicly discussed — the location, timing and intricacies of the incident concerned, the alibis given by those accompanying the archbishop at the time, the denial by one of the two boys in the case that he was ever sexually abused, and the complete absence of any corroboration of the alleged victim’s claims — to demonstrate that the Pell jury could not have come to its decision on the basis of reason and evidence alone.

Other influences must have made an impact on the jury. The two that stand out derive from comparatively new kinds of investigation. If these persist, they will ensure the conviction of George Pell is unlikely to be a one-off misadventure and that his fate will be a model for the persecution of others.

The first of these investigations is the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which concluded on December 2017.  Announced by Prime Minister Julia Gillard in November 2012, the commission was one of the most publicised social inquiries of our time, second only to the Australian Human Rights Commission inquiry into the Stolen Generations in the 1990s.

Following the precedent set by the Stolen Generations inquiry, a new type of state investigation examined historical social behaviour that was not necessarily criminal but was now judged to be immoral or politically incorrect. As well as the Stolen Generations inquiry, co-chaired by former High Court judge Ronald Wilson, the Senate Inquiry into forced adoptions was another model of this kind. It found the victims of a historically legal, but now disapproved, welfare policy had suffered “a lifelong legacy of pain and suffering”. It concluded with a public apology which then Prime Minister Julia Gillard delivered in Parliament.

Gillard obviously enjoyed her first taste of this and seized her next opportunity, an investigation of historical cases of child sexual abuse in institutions. “I came to the decision that it would offer more healing than its potential capacity for hurt,” she told the ABC. “That ultimately, for survivors, being listened to was the thing that they wanted.” This might or might not have been true but what Gillard herself wanted was pretty certain. She wanted a public exercise in social therapy that would stamp her as a committed crusader for social justice, boosting her personal popularity like Kevin Rudd’s apology to the Stolen Generations did for him.

Unfortunately for Gillard, the Royal Commission took another five years to finish its job, by which time she was long gone from the scene. Nonetheless its commissioners delivered what she wanted. They advertised for evidence of sexual abuse, and attracted no less than 9325 verbal and written accusations. It found 2562 of them, or 27 per cent, were suitable to report to the police. While this meant that three out of four claims could not be substantiated, it was still sufficient evidence to show that a number of institutions for children had attracted sexual predators in the past and that these institutions needed to lift their standards of surveillance and reporting, and pay compensation to the victims.

As it went along, the commission produced statistics that were selectively reported by a largely unquestioning news media, making it seem that those most responsible were Catholic clergy, and that most victims were altar boys and choristers in Catholic churches and schools. But as I showed in this column in March 2018, the commission’s final figures do not bear this out. The biggest single group of victims were inmates of church-run, out-of-home care institutions, that is, foster care households and homes for the disabled, orphans and homeless. In short, child abuse in institutions was primarily committed not in cathedrals or schools but by homosexual men preying on vulnerable and disturbed boys in welfare institutions.

The reality, however, was no match for the myth spawned by the commission’s hearings and publications. As it played out on the stage of public opinion, the myth’s great central drama became the struggle of innocent children crying out to be heard versus the determination of malevolent priests to protect their treasured institution by ignoring them. Which side in this drama would triumph was never in doubt.

At the same time, the Victorian police were deploying their own method of investigating this field. It was a technique new to Australia but not to police in the United Kingdom, who had been using it for social inquiries since the early 1990s. First known to British police as a “trawling operation” to see whether there were unreported serious crimes, the technique in Victoria was begun to see if there were real crimes to support the proliferation of child sex allegations found by the Royal Commission.

In 2013, the Victorian police launched “Operation Tethering”, their own trawling operation to investigate child abuse in the church. Even though they started with no complaints about Pell, and no evidence to go on, they decided to include him within the span of their inquiry. The police were thus defining into existence both crime and suspect. This was the reverse of normal police method, which starts with a known crime and then sets out to find and convict the criminal.

In the UK in the 1990s, the process began with allegations of historical cases of sexual abuse in “care homes” for children in Wales. When trying to trace former residents of the homes, police initially found the trail so indistinct that, as last resort, they advertised in newspapers for victims to contact them. The spate of allegations they received redefined their methods of detection.

However, the author of an expose of the process, English investigative journalist Richard Webster, in The Secret of Bryn Estyn: The Making of a Modern Witch Hunt (2005), warned while the operations were still underway:

These investigations are often said to involve “children’s homes”. In fact they are usually residential institutions for troubled or difficult adolescents and, since the allegations of abuse usually refer back ten, 20 or even 30 years, those making them are not children at all. They are almost always adults, many of them with long criminal records. In a number of cases they make their allegations in prison or while facing serious criminal charges. It is here that the real dangers of police trawling operations become apparent – or ought to become apparent.

Webster described how the police found evidence to fit the charge.

If police officers interview hundreds of damaged young people with long records of deception and dishonesty, with the aim of gathering allegations of abuse against those who once cared for them, it would be surprising if they did not succeed — particularly when such allegations can result in thousands of pounds being paid out by the UK Criminal Injuries Compensation Authority.

Yet he notes that police forces throughout the UK continue their trawling operations with the full knowledge and implicit approval of Home Office ministers. Juries have become part of the same game. In these cases, Webster argues, they are now likely to reach a verdict of guilty not on the evidence but in response to the fear that they might acquit a guilty man.

Buoyed by the example of their UK peers, it is not surprising the police in Victoria could sustain a long campaign, which included taking out newspaper ads asking for stories about sexual abuse long before they had any complaints of their own. And it is not so surprising that a jury, uninformed of the full extent of these police procedures, could accept that such evidence was untainted, and find an accused man guilty.

It would be remiss not to mention a third factor that emerged quite coincidentally at the same time as Pell’s prosecution to influence public beliefs about prominent men and their sexual behaviour. The timing of the Pell case coincided closely with the outburst of accusations by a number of Hollywood and Australian actresses that they had been subject to unsolicited sexual approaches by certain film producers, directors and leading men. Pell was first charged in June 2017 and the #MeToo movement broke out in October 2017. Since then the anti-male variety of feminism had enjoyed its biggest revival in decades.

In fact, the day after Pell’s conviction, one of the clearest expressions of this feminist dogma was made by the sister of one of the of one of the allegedly abused boys. She accused all powerful white men of responsibility: “The public has sent the strongest of messages to these men of white privilege and power. You no longer rule our world.”

To its discredit, the legal profession itself has taken just as strong a stand in support of this ideology. In a submission to the Australian Human Rights Commission, the Law Council of Australia called for consolidation of sexual harassment provisions across jurisdictions and an end to the “culture of silence” in the legal profession itself. Law Council president, Arthur Moses SC declared:

Sexual harassment in Australian workplaces is pervasive and damaging, and the legal profession is no exception. The legal profession cannot deny the self-evident truth that sexual harassment is a problem within its own ranks.

Now, if a proposition is a self-evident truth, it does not need the support of any evidence or reasoning. It is simply true, a foundational premise, no proof required. And if the legal profession is prepared to say this in a public submission, and for good measure repeat it in a national release to the news media, as it did last week, then it is little wonder that members of the profession can argue in court, with a straight face, that accusations of sexual abuse do not need any corroboration or the support of plausible evidence — they are credible just by themselves.

Hence, it is not surprising that many representatives of the press take this proposition seriously. Nor is it remarkable that a random selection of twelve people to form a jury will probably include some members who believe it too, plus a few more who can be brought onside after sitting through a trial and the jury’s deliberations.

If this variety of irrationalism persists, we are in danger of losing not only the concept and practice of a fair trial but the very basis of morality. This way of thinking, once confined to ardent academics in Sociology 101 courses, abandons the principle that individuals are responsible for their crimes, and transfers blame to the imagined characteristics of the group to which the individual belongs.

That group is defined by the eye of the victimised beholder, be it a social class, a religious flock, a skin colour, or all members of the same sex as the accused. Not so long ago, this stereotyping of people was recognised for what it was and disdained as “tribalism”, “racism”, “sexism”, “anti-Semitism”, and the like. It has now snuck in through the backdoor of our mentality and is at work again undermining our institutional foundations.

28 comments
  • Richo

    They call it socialism by any other name.

  • Peter Smith

    While Keith has made a persuasive case as to how we have got where we are, even so, I am still amazed that a jury of twelve could unanimously find George Pell guilty beyond reasonable doubt. At first I thought that there must have been evidence that we did not know about. But since then I have read the accounts of numbers of people with legal expertise and at least one who attended the trial. All speak of the evidence that we know about without at all suggesting that it is incomplete. My conclusion, therefore, is that either Pell was extremely unlucky that twelve singularly limited or prejudiced people were, so to speak, drawn out of the hat, or the population from which the jury was drawn have suffered some collective deficiency in common sense. If that is the case it a reason for dispensing with jury trials; which, in turn, would be yet another indicator of the decaying of our civilisation.

  • Bwana Neusi

    To me the greatest travesty to justice was the adoption of “Duty of Care” and with it the replacement of guilty, or guilty to some extent unless the accused could prove or demonstrate otherwise. This was promulgated in the context of safety and the duty of every individual to keep everyone else safe.

    Sadly this overturning of innocent unless proven guilty has now spread into every day culture. Thus white males are toxic unless they can irrefutably prove otherwise, which of course is impossible.

    Turn now to the case of Pell and I suspect that the all persuading argument would have been “If he is not guilty in this case, he must surely be guilty of something else”

  • Jody

    I find it more than sickening the extent to which people here are willing to explain away and justify the behaviour of Pell. He’s a convicted pedophile at this moment in time. By a unanimous jury, what’s more.

    You can advocate for the overturning of our jury system, if you like; but that sounds more like something the rabid left would do, though, doesn’t it!!! Why stop at Pell?

  • Peter Smith

    Jody, I don’t think anyone is justifying child molestation. The issue is whether we are entitled to use our common sense and, using it, comment on the verdict. To me the verdict is completely unsound. How can someone be convicted (beyond reasonable doubt) on the say-so of just one person twenty years after the alleged incidents, with no corroboration and, at the same time, with concrete evidence that it would have been extremely difficult, to put it mildly, for Pell to have committed the (principal) offence unseen, at the place and time alleged. If that is all the “evidence” it takes to get a conviction none of us are safe. And, yes, juries work when the populace is imbued with common sense. However, the idiocy of renewable energy and the resurgence of socialism suggest that common sense is not as abundant as it used to be.

  • Reech

    “Judges, jurors, attorneys, and police will almost certainly be helped by an increased understanding of human memory. At a minimum, it is important to fully appreciate that false memory reports can look like true ones and that without independent corroboration it is virtually impossible to tell whether a particular report is the product of true memory or the product of imagination, suggestion, or some other process. Judges and juries sometimes think that they can tell the difference, but they are actually responding to the confidence, the detail, and the emotion with which a memory report is delivered. Unfortunately, these
    characteristics do not necessarily correspond with reliability.”

    Loftus, Elizabeth F. “Memory Faults and Fixes.” Issues in Science and Technology 18, no. 4
    (Summer 2002). At the time of writing, Loftus was a professor of psychology and adjunct professor of law at the University of Washington.

    Loftus is a cognitive psychologist and expert on human memory, who has conducted extensive research on the malleability of human memory. She is best known for her ground-breaking work on the misinformation effect and eyewitness memory, and the creation and nature of false memories, including recovered memories of childhood sexual abuse. As well as her prolific laboratory work, she has been heavily involved in applying her research to legal settings; she has consulted or provided expert witness testimony for hundreds of cases. Loftus has been recognized throughout the world for her work, receiving numerous awards and honorary degrees. In 2002, Loftus was ranked 58th in the Review of General Psychology’s list of the 100 most influential psychological researchers of the 20th century.

  • STJOHNOFGRAFTON

    Jody – 13th March 2019

    “… but that sounds more like something the rabid left would do, though, doesn’t it!!! Why stop at Pell?”

    So, Jody, it’s worth the easy sacrifice of George Pell so that we don’t appear to emulate the “rabid left”?

  • T B LYNCH

    Sir Thomas More, sometime Chancellor of England under King Henry VIII, was convicted of high treason, by a jury, swayed by the perjury of Richard Rich, Attorney General for Wales.

  • Jody

    Six years in jail; that’s today’s ruling. Until we have further, compelling information Cardinal George Pell is a convicted pedophile and worthy of NOBODY’S sympathy. My son had a classmate abuse by our local parish priest and he has zero life quality as I write this. Excrement was allowed to thrive in the cryto-homosexual culture of the church. But that’s “clericalism” for you.

    They need one of our garden blowers to get rid of the sickness in the Catholic Church.

  • pgang

    Jody today wasn’t a ruling it was a sentencing. You are way out in weird-space on this issue.

    The Catholic church has many problems I agree. I’m probably one of its biggest critics, because the root cause of all their issues is a failure to allow God’s word to speak for itself. Instead the church apportions authority to the minds of men, as did the Greeks and today’s Modernists. The Catholic church (as opposed to the universal catholic church) sees itself as the human arbiter of God’s will, even to the point that it has overtly rejected our covenental reason-for-being as conferred through Adam. That is sacrilege, pure and simple, and from it has flowed a fountain of heresy and predictably ungodly praxis.

    But that does not mean that a gross miscarriage of justice has not occurred in Pell’s case.

  • Geoffrey Luck

    Jody: The jury’s verdict is binding on one person only – Cardinal George Pell. You and I are free to agree or disagree with it as we wish, knowing those of us outside the jury room have no effect on the trial outcome. But that does not make the jury’s decision correct, or deprive me of the right to think and say that it was not.

    Keith has elegantly described the corruption of the law and the legal system by the heartfelt but unbalanced emotionalism you display. Today, it was demonstrated that this characteristic is not limited to the unlearned and unwashed members of the public called to decide on the facts beyond their reasonable doubt.

    I am convinced, beyond reasonable doubt, that on the evidence of today’s sentencing speech, Mr Justice Kidd welcomed the verdict and gloried in his opportunity to lacerate the prisoner, since he could not hang him. The over-lengthy sentencing speech, constructed to appear an even-handed balancing of considerations, overwhelmingly revealed his satisfaction at the opportunity to preach a homily against child abuse.

    He did not consider the live television broadcast – a unique event – as piling Pelion on Ossa. Rather, it would be a minor addition to the calumny already heaped on Pell by the media and public comment, and he clearly thought that both justified and a good thing.

    Today’s court pronunciamento was not merely a steely set of words to send Pell down; it was an opportunity for a self-promoting and unnecessary personal manifesto.

  • Mike O’Ceirin

    Jody imagine if you can you or someone close to you is accused of sexual abuse by someone they met 20 years ago. It is the statement of the person that is the sole evidence no one else saw it there is no other evidence. Despite nothing supports this accusation you are convicted by a jury and the media is quite gleeful at the fact you have been sent to jail. Innocent until proven guilty means nothing evidence means nothing and you do not see a problem with this!

  • Andrew Griffiths

    I lived in Darwin when Lindy Chamberlain was found guilty and it surprised me that there was so much hate and prejudice directed her way and to the SDA church ,from well connected, well educated people along with the abusive pub talk. Many of these people continue to nurse this hate today,I’m sure Cardinal Pell will display the exemplary behaviour shown by Lindy towards this madness that has infected many in our nation.

  • Doubting Thomas

    Andrew, I worked for a now deceased RAAF officer who had been the senior RAAF officer in Darwin during the Chamberlain trial that sent Lindy to jail. Ex officio, he was high in the ADF local hierarchy and, as such, in close personal contact with the civil authorities, in particular the Police senior hierarchy and those of the other emergency services.
    Being from the bush, and well aware of the capacity, and propensity, of even domestic dogs to kill and maim animals far larger than themselves, I never doubted Lindy’s claim that a dingo had stolen her baby. But when I put this to my boss he howled with laughter and said there was no doubt that Lyndy had murdered the baby and disposed of the body. The cops had told him so, so it was so, and nothing would convince him otherwise. He had retired and I had lost touch with him when Lindy was exonerated, so I missed my “told you so” satisfaction.
    If anyone still doubts the capacity of the police (and the media) to make people’s lives miserable, read Joanne Lees’ account of the investigation ultimately resulting in the conviction of Bradley Murdoch for the murder of Peter Falconio. The police and sections of the media treated her not as a victim, but as a serious suspect, and at times set out to entrap her.
    Lindy wasn’t the first and Pell won’t be the last to suffer from corrupt and/or incompetent officialdom.

  • Peter OBrien

    “He’s a convicted pedophile at this moment in time. By a unanimous jury, what’s more.”

    Jody, the fact that the jury was unanimous in its verdict does not add to the credibility of that verdict, as you seem to imply. The jury must be unanimous in order to return a verdict of guilty in the first place.

  • Peter OBrien

    “In these cases, Webster argues, they are now likely to reach a verdict of guilty not on the evidence but in response to the fear that they might acquit a guilty man.”

    That statement struck a real chord with me, Keith, because it would also explain the vituperation with which Pell haters attack anyone who casts doubt on the verdict. Jody, commenting in these pages, is a good example of that syndrome.

    On another matter, you imply that Cardinal Pell was specifically named as a person of interest in Operation Tethering, I was not aware that it was that blatant. Can you confirm this for me?

    A great article, by the way, which has greatly added to my understanding of this troubling episode.

  • Edward Carson

    “In these cases, Webster argues, [juries] are now likely to reach a verdict of guilty not on the evidence but in response to the fear that they might acquit a guilty man.”

    Now how would he know that? Is he allowed to sit in on jury deliberation?

    “The timing of the Pell case coincided closely with the outburst of accusations by a number of Hollywood and Australian actresses that they had been subject to unsolicited sexual approaches by certain film producers, directors and leading men.”

    Not sure this is really relevant. The sin highlighted by the #MeToo movement is influential people getting sexual favours in exchange for career advancement or from threats of career stalling. Pell wasn’t alleged to have offered candy or any other benefit to get what he wanted, but instead to have forced himself upon the alleged victims like any opportunistic serial rapist.

  • lloveday

    ” The sin highlighted by the #MeToo movement is influential people getting sexual favours in exchange for career advancement”.
    .
    Why not “the sin is people getting undeserved career advancement by giving sexual favours”? Or does that get a pass?

  • Keith Windschuttle

    Peter, the naming of Pell in Operation Tethering before that inquiry had any complaints about him came out in cross-examination by Richter of Detective Inspector Paul Sheridan of Victoria Police during the committal hearing. Tessa Akerman in The Australian March 29 2018 reported the following exchange:
    “Sheridan told Melbourne Magistrate’s Court that Operation Tethering was established in 2013 to see whether Cardinal Pell had committed serious crimes that had gone unreported … Mr Richter said no complainant came forward for the first year of Operating Tethering and the operation was “looking for crimes rather than investigating crimes that had been reported.” Melissa Cunningham in The Age reported much the same.

  • JamesBowen

    I speak on this issue as a person who held the office of Prosecutor for the Queen in Victoria for 15 years. One major duty of that office was to sign the presentments (also known as indictments) that contained the charges to be considered by juries. I can only present a view based upon what I have read in the media, and for that reason it would not be appropriate for me to criticise the verdict of the jury that heard all of the evidence in the Pell trial. Based only upon the evidence reported in the media, I would have been unable to sign a presentment containing the charges on which Cardinal Pell was convicted. Those who have been pleased by the convictions of Cardinal Pell need to be ready to cope with the very real prospect that an appeal court will quash his convictions as unsafe having regard to the serious problems besetting the Crown case.

    James

  • Avalon

    I agree with Keith. In addition I think this is part of a larger tendency. Complaints are made, for instance, that there are insufficient male teachers in primary school. Why any man would teach young children, be a scout master or regularly come into contact with young children who are not his is a mystery. You don’t know what will be said in 30 years time.

  • Steve Bonner

    The key to the Appeal will be the fifth charge where the jury convicted Cardinal Pell of an an offence against a dead person over 20 years ago, who stated to his mother that it never happened, and for which there was no other evidence other than a verbal statement by Witness A.

    How can this be ‘beyond reasonable doubt ? Never the less the Jury convicted the accused.
    This casts a cloud over all of the deliberations of this Jury.

    As Keith has stated, there must have been other influences at play with the Jury.

  • DMRyan

    Former Christian Brother to walk free from jail after child sex convictions quashed
    By Benjamin Ansell
    2:25pm Mar 15, 2019

    Found at:
    https://www.9news.com.au/2019/03/15/10/57/john-francis-tyrrell-conviction-quashed-christian-brother-news-victoria

    A former Christian Brother who spent his 80th birthday behind bars as a convicted paedophile will immediately walk free from jail after his convictions were quashed on appeal.
    A jury found John Francis Tyrrell guilty last year of 10 charges, including buggery and indecent assault.
    At trial, a complainant alleged Mr Tyrrell abused him when he was aged between 10 and 12 at Geelong’s St Joseph’s College in 1965 and 1966.
    Today, Court of Appeal Justices Stephen Kaye, Richard Niall and Mark Weinberg ordered Mr Tyrrell be acquitted of all charges.
    The Justices found there to be “serious discrepancies between his [the complainant] version of events and the facts that were objectively established by the evidence.”
    The compainaint maintained he confronted the appellant directly at the school in early 1969.
    However, according to the court “it was clearly established that the appellant had ceased to teach at the school at the end of 1966.”
    More than 50 years has passed since the alleged offending, a period of time the court said meant “that several relevant witnesses were no longer able to give evidence.’
    Frail and partially blind, Mr Tyrrell watched the decision by video link as Justice Kaye ordered he be “quickly” released.
    Supporters clapped, whooped and immediately began making plans with Mr Tyrrell’s lawyers to pick him up, after 11 months behind bars.
    He was sentenced in the County Court last April to 11 years in prison, with a minimum six-and-a-half years, before being eligible for parole.

  • jimmaths

    There’s nothing wrong with trawling operations. That’s how things work now there are large datasets. A better one on Facebook might have found Brenton Tarrant earlier. It’s just that the nature of them is to turn up a lot of false positives, so you need to approach the results turned up with a good degree of scepticism.

  • Stephen Due

    There are a number of motives that might lead to a false but plausible claim of child sexual abuse. Several are psychological. One is simply a desire to bring down an individual whom one dislikes, or with whom one sees oneself as being in conflict. Some individuals seek revenge on behalf of others whom they regard as victims: there seem to be whole ‘communities’ of people who support victims of institutional abuse, thus providing an environment that might foster such motives. Sometimes individuals with a grudge against an institution, for whatever reason, are know to make false allegations against high-profile persons whom they regard as standing for the institution. In addition there is a distinct possibly in an emotionally-heated environment, when accusations are flying thick and fast, that a person desiring notoriety might see an opportunity to boost their own profile by joining the ranks of victims. To complicate this scenario, there is the well-known psychiatric phenomenon of false memory. And of course once compensation is mooted, there is a strong monetary incentive for joining the ranks of the victims. Under these circumstances any uncorroborated testimony, such as that on which George Pell was convicted, should be suspect. However in today’s social media climate, the victim cannot lie. The accused is judged to be guilty until (or even after) they are proved innocent. One can only imagine the intense pressure that members of a jury would feel themselves to be under, given these circumstances. Imagine the outcry had the jury found Pell to be innocent!

  • Doubting Thomas

    As an articled law clark many years ago, my boss drummed into me the lesson that juries do NOT find accused persons “innocent”. Under our now seriously threatened British legal system, the accused are always innocent unless and until a jury (or a judge sitting alone) find them guilty. Just as a not guilty verdict does not mean that the accused did not commit the offence, so also a guilty verdict does not mean that they did.

  • Lawrie Ayres

    Stephen. Your last statement.” Imagine the outcry had the jury found Pell to be innocent!” although true causes me to despair in that righteous people would convict because they were too afraid to say “not Guilty”. The jury in this case took three and a half days to reach it’s verdict which indicates that some jurors at least were out of step with the others. There was a book by John Grisham called the “last Juror” in which a juror managed to get himself on a jury and against the evidence gained an acquittal for the accused. Obviously someone held out for 3.5 days in the Pell case but eventually folded. It only takes one strong willed person and patience to get the desired outcome.

  • Salome

    Mr Luck, with respect, I don’t think you’ve read many sentencing remarks. If you did, you would realise that they all tend to be ‘overly long’. It is the job of the judge to set out in detail what happened, then to go into the offender’s circumstances and the impact on victims. There was nothing really unusual about this judgment, with one exception–the preface to the setting out of the facts, in paragraphs 16 and 17, which I have quoted below a later article. It was only after making this qualification that HH then proceeded to set out the ‘facts’ as found by the jury in their ridiculously impossible detail. I think we’ve got to the point where, particularly with high profile cases and defendants, the jury trial isn’t the guarantor of fairness and reasonableness that it used to be. Thanks to media and, even worse, social media, juries often tend to know (or think they know) too much about the case before a jot or a tittle of admissible evidence has been presented to them. Of course, if judges become the preferred tribunal of fact for some, their reasons for sentence will get longer, because they will contain the analysis of the evidence and credibility of witnesses that allowed the judge to reach the verdict.

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