The Pell case breaks new ground

In his sermon last Sunday the Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, urged parishioners don’t be ‘too quick to judge’ Pell. I found what the Archbishop said appropriate, except that Pell has been judged and found guilty. That is his present status. He is guilty as charged on five counts of sexual abuse. For the third most senior Catholic official on the planet, that is breathtaking.

Melissa Davey at The Guardian, one of the few reporters who sat through the whole trial, except when the court was in closed session, has an excellent Q & A piece Cardinal George Pell’s conviction: the questions that remain. On the question of the appeal she says:

Those links vary a little in the reasons. In the first link, an article by Melissa Davey which relies heavily on the opinion of University of Melbourne law school’s criminal appeals and procedure expert, Professor Jeremy Gans, we get:

    Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter, told the sentencing hearing on Wednesday that his client’s appeal would be based on three key grounds: unreasonableness, the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, and composition of the jury.

The second link, an AAP article, does not mention the composition of the jury but says Pell was never allowed to plead before the jury:

    “There was a fundamental irregularity in the trial process, because the accused was not arraigned in the presence of the jury panel as required,” the appeal, filed by Pell’s barrister, Robert Richter QC, reads.

That seems to me a procedural technicality, but the Appeal Court judges will decide.

On the composition of the jury, we are told:

    Gans said this could mean several things. As an example, defence lawyers may have learned that a juror knew one of the victim’s family members, or that a juror had been sexually assaulted and therefore held a prejudiced view.

So we simply don’t know.

The prohibition of video evidence in the closing address relates to an animation which:

    showed the St Patrick’s cathedral floor plan and dots depicting the movements of Pell, the choir boys, altar servers and other witnesses during and after Sunday solemn mass.

Strictly new evidence is not allowed in a closing address and Judge Peter Kidd did not allow it to be shown on the grounds that jurors might view the video as evidence and fact.

The animation was meant to demonstrate that it was virtually impossible for Pell to slip away to the sacristy. Again it is anyone’s guess how the appeal court will rule.

The remaining ground of appeal relates to the unreasonableness of the verdict. Although I have heard from multiple sources that appeal judges tend to respect the judgement of the jury because it is the cornerstone of our system of justice, this one has many people agitated because although, according to Davey, the prosecution called 14 witnesses, their case relies heavily on the evidence of just one man:

    “The verdicts are unreasonable and cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence, because on the whole of the evidence, including unchallenged exculpatory evidence from more than 20 crown witnesses [sic – see Ambigulous comment below], it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone,” his first appeal ground says.

    If the court of appeal accepts that, it could dismiss the case.

Andrew Tillet in the AFR in an article Is George Pell innocent? cites Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, a onetime professor of law at Notre Dame University:

    “What the last year has shown is that the justice system can be systematically assaulted from the outside in a conscious attempt to make a fair trial impossible,” Craven writes in an article published last Wednesday in The Australian. “This should terrify every citizen, because every citizen is a potential defendant.”

He’s worried the campaigning in social media has poisoned the well, and:

    He claims “parts of the media – notably the ABC and former Fairfax journalists – have spent years attempting to ensure Pell is the most odious figure in Australia. They seemed to want him in the dock as an ogre, not a defendant.”

You would have to be living under a rock not to be aware of the accusations made about Pell and his approach to people who complained of sexual abuse by the clergy. David Marr has given him a character appraisal which does not hold back in Brutal and dogmatic, George Pell waged war on sex – even as he abused children. For example:

    As an archbishop in Melbourne and a cardinal in Sydney, Pell poured his energies into combating contraception, homosexuality, genetic engineering, divorce, equal marriage and abortion.

    He was particularly brutal to homosexuals.

‘Australia never shared Rome’s high opinion of George Pell.’ Photograph: Kristian Dowling/Getty Images

That was written after Pell’s conviction. It sums up and concentrates criticism made of Pell, and makes the actual acts he was convicted of seem in character. Whether a jury is influenced by this kind of information is impossible to tell, but judges usually drill into the jury that very specific acts are under consideration, and that all that matters is evidence in relation to those specific acts. Melissa Davey says the jurors:

    were also told repeatedly and on multiple days they were not to make Pell a scapegoat for the Catholic church and its failures to children. They were warned almost daily against doing their own research into Pell or talking about the case, and were told they could go to jail if they did so. These were not points made in passing. They were drilled into jurors by the chief judge.

At this point it may be salutary to read The Kid and The Choirboy – the harrowing story of George Pell’s victims, an excerpt from Louise Milligan’s book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, where the family of the victim who died tell the cataclysmic effect abuse had on him. The deceased victim’s father gave evidence at the trial.

The Kid and The Choirboys is compelling reading, and adds much to an understanding of the case, making the five events on which the case was based all too real.

In short, two boys, scrubbers from Melbourne’s inner suburbs at the time, had scholarships to St Kevin’s College in Toorak, Melbourne’s most exclusive precinct, because they could sing like birds and could contribute to the school’s famous choir. They enjoyed it immensely, including singing Handel’s Messiah, a complex choral work.

Suddenly after one Sunday in December 1996, everything changed. Both 13 year-olds, who were said to be caught by Pell swigging communion wine in the sacristy, started misbehaving in class, resisting going to choir and to school. In the case of the second victim, the one who died, it was a complete personality change. Before he was 14 he had taken to heroin, an overdose of which killed him in 2014 at the age of 31. In a real sense, he was completely unable to form a mature personality, his life was completely derailed from developing a normal path.

The other did survive, his life managing the normal trajectory of gaining a job of some kind with partner and children. The families had car-pooled, but were never close. The survivor did see the other boy’s mother a few times, and turned up at the funeral, which apparently was the tipping point when he decided that was enough was enough and a complaint had to be made. First contact was made, I understand, by the man’s mother with Bernard Barrett, a retired academic and volunteer at Broken Rights. You can see from this link how ferocious Robert Richter was for the defence, accusing Barrett of wanting to big-note himself.

The decision to complain was a brave one, which involved reliving the events in court, no doubt being exposed to ferocious interrogation from Robert Richter, one of the best in the business. I understand the court experience extended over four days.

Neither boy told anyone what had happened, the one who died denied he had been sexually abused when asked by his mother. Shame can be very powerful in these cases, and the notion that no-one would believe them. Finally, it was the investigating police who told her what had happened.

There is little doubt that the trial would never have happened had there not been a Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Abuse.

What has changed is that victims are now more likely to come forward, police are more likely to investigate, and the default position is likely to be that victims will be believed.

In this case a perpetrator was found guilty largely on the evidence of one victim without third-party corroboration. I’m not at all sure that will become common. My feeling on watching the Four Corners program Guilty: The conviction of Cardinal Pell (the reporter was Louise Milligan) was that seriously traumatised and damaged victims may struggle for credibility in court.

Finally, there will need to be some credible institutional changes of the Catholic church will gradually wither and die, to become as empty as this image of the cathedral:

St Patrick’s Cathedral

After all that, legal opinion seems to be that there is a fair chance that Pell’s appeal will succeed. There are matters about how the trial was managed and unknown issues about the jurors. On the central question of guilt, there is no definition of what “beyond reasonable doubt” means. To add to some of what I quoted above, Melissa Davey says:

    In Victoria, jurors can ask the judge for some guidance as to how to interpret “beyond reasonable doubt” if they are stuck, but this question was not asked by jurors in Pell’s case. However, jurors are given very strong directions by the chief judge about factors to consider.

    Jurors were told it was not enough to believe the complainant, or to think that Pell committed the abuse. Jurors were told they had to believe the abusing happened beyond reasonable doubt, otherwise it was not safe to convict and they must find Pell not guilty. They were also told repeatedly and on multiple days they were not to make Pell a scapegoat for the Catholic church and its failures to children. They were warned almost daily against doing their own research into Pell or talking about the case, and were told they could go to jail if they did so. These were not points made in passing. They were drilled into jurors by the chief judge.

I’ll copy here how the IPCC expresses probability in dealing with climate change:


It could be that we are dealing with the difference between 99% and 98% probability.

Finally, I’d like to comment on an article by the Jesuit Father Frank Brennan Truth and justice after the Pell verdict, because it is being handed out to parents in catholic schools as evidence questioning the validity of the judgement.

In the trial the jury saw the evidence provided by the victim/complainant only as a video from the first trial played in closed court. Early on in the article Brennan in fact says

    “no member of the public has a complete picture of the evidence and no member of the public is able to make an assessment of the complainant’s demeanour.”

That disqualifies him from having a firm opinion about the judgement. He should have accepted that and stopped right there. Instead he’s written a piece in favour of Pell which possibly amounts to interfering with the appeal process.

To Brennan many of the details the main witness gave “were improbable if not impossible”. Further on he says that the criminal justice system “is under serious strain” when it comes to Cardinal Pell. Then he said that the defence were:

    on strong ground in submitting that the circumstances made the narrative advanced by the prosecution manifestly improbable…

Brennan’s argument is twofold. The first relates to the procedures undertaken, with the main point being that Pell’s practice was to move down the aisle in procession, the chat with parishioners at the cathedral door for up to 15 or 20 minutes, and only then move with the Master of Ceremonies to the sacristy, where they would change out of their robes.

The agreed dates are 15 December 1996 or 22 December 1996. No-one has come forward to say that they were with Pell all the time on those days, and there is little doubt that if Pell wanted to go to the sacristy for some reason, he would, to answer a call of nature, for example.

Brennan’s second argument is about clothing. Pell, he says, would have been wearing an alb under a heavier chasuble. Brennan makes the alb sound like a chastity belt. It extends down to the ankles, and only has slits in the sides for access to trouser pockets, and is secured by a cincture, or rope around the waist.

I’ve spoken to someone who wore an alb as an alter boy, who says the cincture is easily untied, the alb is a light garment, which could easily be swiveled to make the penis available. The chasuble has no sides.

The charge here is that Brennan himself has worn the alb thousands of times, and would know that it presented no impediment to Pell. The charge is that Brennan has chosen the church over truth.

Be that as it may, Davey says:

    The jurors saw the robes, were able to hold them, and heard the evidence from both parties as to their manoeuvrability.

They also had an on site tour of the cathedral.

That is good enough for me.

Yet Brennan says:

    The police never inspected the vestments during their investigations, nor did the prosecution show that the vestments could be parted or moved to the side as the complainant had alleged.

I’ll take Davey’s account every time over Brennan’s. Apparently the Jesuits have a reputation for bending the truth just a little so that it doesn’t break, but means something else. If that is what has happened with Brennan, I find it beyond sad.

On the 7.30 Report the day before his Eureka Street article was published, and possibly the day after he wrote it, Brennan says this:

    Now, I don’t think I’m being trite in saying even if the processes of the law were to show that the verdict were unsafe, and that won’t be a matter for me, that’s a matter for an appeal court, and I passionately believe in our legal system as well as the church, but even if that happens, we’re all left with the realisation that 12 decent Australians off the street listening to the evidence of the victim and listening to everything that was outlined, including the improbabilities, say we are absolutely convinced that Cardinal Pell did something dreadful to this young man and his companion.

    That leaves us with a leadership which in terms of public credibility has been absolutely shattered.

    Now what that calls us back to is the core of the Christian message and not a lot of the Roman superstructure.

That will not be photocopied and handed out to parents.

What a pity he did not write that in the Eureka Street article. Did he think of it later, or do we have the clever Jesuit at work?

In breaking news a civil case for damages is being brought against Pell, as well as the trustees of the Sisters of Nazareth (formerly responsible for the management of St Joseph’s), a boys’ home in Ballarat. The complainant resided there from February 1974 to 1978 and says he was abused by Pell and a nun during that period.

    Managing partner of law firm Arnold Thomas & Becker, Lee Flanagan, is leading the case and said his client would be seeking damages for psychiatric injury, loss of wages and medical expenses.

The complainant is one of the four “swimmers” said to have been abused by Pell in a Ballarat swimming pool in the case that has just been dropped by the Victorian police.

The standard of proof is less rigorous in civil cases. If this case is successful there could be many more to follow.

64 thoughts on “The Pell case breaks new ground”

  1. Superb and reasoned work, Brian.

    In the paragraphs you have indented and italicised, there is a word which I think was a misprint in the original.

    In the sixth of those paragraphs…..

    “unchallenged exculpatory evidence given by 20 prosecution witnesses ”

    Shurely shome mishtake?
    as they used to write in Private Eye magazine.

    If an “exculpatory” statement casts doubt on guilt, would they not be defence witnesses?

    I recall being puzzled by that in the original.

    Pedantry Central
    – coming to a blog near you –

  2. Ambi, I can’t change the text, so I’ve put a link to your comment at that place in the quote. Please let me know if that’s not right or if you have a better suggestion.

    Must fly now.

  3. Brian, thanks.

    I didn’t want you to change the text.
    Just thought it looked like a misprint. Perhaps it was an actual error, zoot?? rather than a reporter’s or sub-editor’s typo.

    Damn you, Spellcock.

    BTW, Barrister Richter has now withdrawn from Mr Pell’s legal team. A Sydney QC will conduct the appeal…..

  4. Ambi, Richter says he was too angry and upset at the verdict, which he says was “perverse”.

    To me Richter seems a relic of a style of lawyering that I’d hoped we had left behind.

    Conveniently, it allows Richter to vent in public without compromising his legal position. He will still be available to the legal team leading the appeal.

    Meanwhile Australian Catholic University staff want Greg Craven disciplined over Pell support.

    As detailed in the post, Craven wrote an article for the Oz in defence of Pell. That was after he had ruled that ACU staff should not comment on the matter until the appeal had been settled.

    And a specialist counselling service supporting victims of childhood sexual abuse has been inundated with calls since the conviction of Cardinal George Pell.

  5. I’ve rearranged the images at the head of the post to emphasise the closeness between Pell and Pope Frances in status and recent working arrangements.

  6. Marr has commented since the Pell verdict. But he also penned Quarterly Essay #51 in Sept, 2013.

    Marr was clearly of the view that Pell was tainted.

    Interestingly the above link identifies Pell as the spiritual adviser to Tony Abbott, who apparently provided a character reference to Pell and also described him as a friend. I think Abbott has tried to walk some of his support back, saying he could not remember a phone call or something like that. I heard that on ABC radio and it was Abbott speaking.

    Also, viewable on the site is an extract of the QE and some commentary by noted authors. An e-copy of the edition is available for about $10.

  7. As far as I know, a “character reference” is supposed to be an account of what I know about Individual Q and how I know it, particularly the Individual’s human qualities as observed by me.

    It has nothing to do with the evidence presented in the trial, or the jury discussions (it cannot anyway). It goes to the matter of sentencing, as do factors the Judge has observed: demeanor, contrition or remorse, truthfulness, etc; and most importantly the type of offence the Individual has been found guilty of.

    Some commentators have cast doubt on the safeness of the verdict.

    But a character reference cannot pertain to the offence (s). Otherwise the writer could have been called as a witness.

    Many critics of those who submitted character references seem to think the reference would resemble this:
    He was a fine and good person, did many admirable things, so I was as shocked as anyone when I saw him pick up the axe and hurl himself on the defenceless. …..”

  8. Ambi, I think you’ve got it about right. Howard et al would have had a very different view of Pell. He may have presented as a kind, thoughtful person to many. It’s common to hear people say they knew X for years, and are certain that X would never murder anyone.

  9. I found this piece from Richard Cooke shocking:

      It may be true that Pell is a “lively conversationalist” but he is not on trial for being a bad raconteur. As for the man of high office, the man that I knew, the man who is so privately charitable, the man who would never … These words already appear in tens of thousands of case files. How many more are needed?

      Those files also find priests who raped children not just in the sacristy but at the altar. They molested children not only in public but in front of their own family members, sometimes in the same moving car. They raped them while wearing vestments, not only orally but anally as well. That same untieable cincture has been used to bind the hands of a 16-year-old boy, who was then raped so viciously he needed corrective surgery. Opportunistic priests have acted in windows of time not just after mass, but on school excursions in public toilets. They have snuck into a hospital to rape a seven-year-old girl. They have molested every daughter in a five-daughter family.

      So what about Pell’s case is implausible, or even unusual? For anyone willing to look, it is almost humdrum, once compared to the vast, prolific compendium of international crime his institution has compiled.

  10. Q&A (Mon 4 March.) on the subject of the impact of the Pell case was excellent. If you can view it on iview.
    Every so often enough Catholics get so pissed off with the behaviour of the hierarchy and its corruption that some of them split off start something like the Lutheran version of Christianity.
    The panel talked about the need for the members of the church to assume control – too late to reform the hierarchy.

  11. John, yes Mark told me Q&A was good too. So far I haven’t had time to look at it.

  12. It was a rarity: hardly shouty, minimal grandstanding. Sober and thoughtful.

  13. Brian: Thanks for your clear analysis.

    My interest is less in the detection, arrest and trial of a prominent individual – and this case is similar to other serious cases involving celebrities and powerful figures – my interest is in the purposes of bringing these matters to the attention of the Law at this time (shocking and disgusting though these matters are) and in who will gain what from the social impact of this and similar case.

    Although Cardinal George Pell himself has been convicted of specific sexual crimes (whether the conviction stands or is eventually overturned ), I feel that it is the Catholic Church that was the main defendant in this trial and that it will be under even more attacks from now on. Mind you, the arrogance, the inflexibility, the moral cowardice as well as the refusal to listen out for potential and real problems among some senior clergy kept sending out loud-and-clear messages of weakness for many years, inevitably these messages of weakness have invited attacks.

    Looking around, I just can’t see any real leaders who can get the Catholic Church in Australia out of the mess it has created for itself. There are plenty of good, decent, devout and honest clergy, of course – and I do feel pity for them because they have had to suffer undeservedly for the crimes and the sins of their fellows – but I just can’t see any dynamic leaders with the strength of character and the vision to lead the present Catholic Church into and through the necessary renewal it needs if it is to survive at all. We can only pray ….

    b.t.w. Brian, I liked your scale of probability; heck of a lot more exact and useful than the old-fashioned 4 levels + 1 absolutely and impossibly certain + 1 unknown/unknowable.

  14. I am enjoying this discussion because of its objectivity, beyond the soft target of broad scale condemnation of the Catholic Church.

  15. When I googled “what good has Pell done?” it was hard to get links that were not all about the conviction. However, Wikpedia was a bit more positive:

    Pell worked as a priest in regional Victoria and in Melbourne as well as chairing the aid organisation Caritas Australia from 1988 to 1997. He has written widely on religious subjects, authoring several books and writing a weekly column in Sydney’s Sunday Telegraph.[3] He was appointed as a delegate to the Australian Constitutional Convention in 1998, received the Centenary Medal from the Australian government in 2003, and was appointed a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2005.[3][5] Upon becoming Archbishop of Melbourne, Pell set up the “Melbourne Response” diocesan protocol to investigate and deal with complaints of child sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Melbourne.[6][7][8] The protocol was the first of its kind in the world, but has been subject to a variety of criticisms.[6][8][7][9] Pell himself used the platforms to both condemn past failings of his Church and to defend his own efforts to combat child sexual abuse in the church and care for victims.[10]

    Caritas is one of the many good things that the Catholic church does but it is hard to say from the Wikipedia entry how much personal effort he put into Caritas.
    Pell’s role as the iron fist of Catholic orthodoxy is what makes the news and many of the things he did would have harmed individuals. For example, his attitude to homosexuality and gay marriage would hardly have helped homosexual Catholics. His campaign against euthanasia would have meant that many suffered more than necessary at the end of their lives. Shuffling pedophile priests off to another parish instead of reporting the problem to the police would have meant kids becoming victims when this could have been avoided.
    Oddly enough I have mixed feelings about the Melbourne system. What its critics are not saying is that it provided assistance to victims who couldn’t afford to take the church to court.
    What I think I am seeing with Pell is the Catholic version of the company man. A man who puts protecting the company even if it means doing immoral things to achieve this protection.
    Does anyone out there have information that would help us make a more informed assessment?

  16. In today’s SMH paper edition on page 14 is the headline Church knew of historic Pell claims. The online article was posted at The Age yesterday headlined Church knew Pell was at centre of decades-old lurid sex claims. The article begins with:

    The claims were lurid and unverified so Helen Last, the counsellor hired by the Catholic Church in Melbourne to assist victims of clerical abuse, agonised before reporting them to her superiors.

    It was 1996 and the newly appointed archbishop, George Pell, had just set up the Melbourne Response to handle the rising numbers of sex abuse claims received by the archdiocese.

    I won’t be at all surprised if there are more instances surfacing about Pell’s behaviour.

  17. GM

    There have been many stories, including very specific allegations ventilated in the Press ever since Mr Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. On YouTube, if you can stomach it, there’s a Sixty Minutes program from long ago, presented by the late Richard Carleton. It begins with accusations by a nephew of Fr Gerald Ridsdale.

    Pedophile rapists and molesters have always been furtive, secretive, sneaky and when successful, seem to “groom” unsuspecting parents as much as their child targets.

    (Thank you, Vladimir Nabokov, for your novel Lolita.)

    These crimes are by no means restricted to RC priests or teachers.

    See also : Boy Scouts, several Protestant churches, religious “sects”, youth clubs, youth sports teams, primary schools, secondary schools; and most difficult of all – families.

    Geoff H: I second your motion.

  18. A few questions that I myself find worrying:

    What will happen to the Jury System if this case becomes a watershed one? Juries are already hindered and held on a tight leash by the two gladiators or jousters pretending to be barristers in a case; some judges do try to ensure fairness and do try to protect the jurors against domination and manipulation by the two licenced crooks but, despite their exalted position in a court, there is not much they can really do these days.. Will this case lead to the abolition or the complete emasculation of juries?

    All the publicity about this case has, to me, the stench of “lookee-here, lookee-here” all over it. Whilst we have all been so distracted by the arrest and conviction of Cardinal George Pell, what horrible crimes committed in other organizations are being swept under the carpet or put through the shredder?

    If the Catholic Church in Australia does implode, (thanks to the blunders of Saint Pope John Paul II and his favourites), what happens to all the faithful Catholics, both to the ordinary laity and to the decent untainted priests, nuns and brothers?

    No need to wonder what will happened to all the property held by the Catholic Church; its fate is certain if the Catholic Church does destroy itself. I’ll bet there are property speculators who have already knocked up draught proposals for converting cathedrals into multi-unit luxury accommodation. Money talks ….

    John D.: Thanks for your observation, “What I think I am seeing with Pell is the Catholic version of the company man. A man who puts protecting the company even if it means doing immoral things to achieve this protection”.

  19. Waleed Aly and Scott Stephens have in interesting discussion of The Minefield this week – Do we have an obligation to pity the guilty?

    Stephens was concerned about public reaction, and the degree of anger and contempt shown towards Pell, which he thought unhelpful and an indicator of our moral immaturity. Stephens cited Immanuel Kant who thought we owed basic respect or regard to criminals. The idea of pity apparently goes back to Plato.

    I’m more comfortable with the notion of recognition of a criminal’s humanity, which is a concept that comes from Hegel, I think.

    Christians have a notion of sin and forgiveness, which I think can be too easy. Hollingworth went onto his knees and asked God’s forgiveness and then pronounced himself forgiven. Of course there were no witnesses to verify this.

  20. Brian: Christ is alleged to have said something like “let he who is without sin throw the first stone.” My recollection here is that Christ was not trying to set out the rules for selecting the stoner squad. He was saying that none of us is good enough to judge others.
    The bible also suggests that the original sin was to “eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil.
    Of course you can find parts of the bible that present a view more in line with pharisee thinking. Part of my problem with Pell is that I saw him as a Catholic version of a pharisee and as such did much harm to a wide range of people.

  21. Brian: Neither Pity nor Tenderness is appropriate.
    Understanding of the person and of the causes of the offending?
    Fair treatment of the offender and, once sentence is pronounced, of the criminal?
    Keeping the ranting of the noose-&-lash brigade right out of the judgement?
    But not Pity or Tenderness.

    Steve Chirnside, in a comment on that linked ABC Minefield program, said at 06 Mar 2019 3:10:58pm,
    How many other convicted child molesters would have received the same high levels of procedural fairness, top quality legal representation and fair treatment by prison authorities post-conviction as Dr Pell has?
    This points to a much broader problem in our whole criminal justice system: the privileged treatment of rich or influential criminals. Who can forget the slap-on-the-wrist sentence of several months to a comfortable cell for a high-flying swindler who robbed a large number of people of their life-savings – and in so doing forced us taxpayers to waste millions in repairing the social damage of his crimes?
    Of course there is an obvious need to segregate former judges, magistrates and police, as well as those with serious mental and physical impairments, from the general prison population, but as for the rest – rich or poor, high or low – put them in with the general prison population and let them take their chances. In its current form, prison is supposed to be a place of punishment and a deterrent to others who might be
    tempted to commit similar crimes.

  22. Graham, I can agree with all that except the last sentence:

    In its current form, prison is supposed to be a place of punishment and a deterrent to others who might be
    tempted to commit similar crimes.

    That’s part of it, but prison is also meant to reform people so that they won’t re-offend, and keep the community safe if they remain unreformed and dangerous.

    How well it does any of these things is another discussion.

  23. prison is supposed to be a place of punishment

    I (along with most Australian prison administrators) must point out that being in prison (the loss of freedom) is the punishment and deterrent.
    Most prisoners will be released back into the community, so it makes sense for the goal of imprisonment to be rehabilitation not punishment.

  24. Graham Bell

    I am impressed by your comment at 7.04am.

    Can’t agree with your (apparent) suggestions at 1.13pm, that a prison can be a place where prisoners mete out bashings to other felons according to their own values.

    I’d like to see rehabilitation, education etc flourish inside prisons. Not sure that it does in Victorian gaols.

    (Can any of us volunteer as tutors? Dare we?)

  25. Most Blokes that I’ve discussed about their time in jail say that the probation restrictions when they get out are worse than the time inside.

    Based on their experiences and my own philosophy, there shouldn’t be any “ probation conditions “
    One is either an incarnated Man or a Free Man.

    ( that would need a few other tweaks to be more effective I do admit )

  26. Most Blokes that I’ve discussed about their time in jail say that the probation restrictions when they get out are worse than the time inside.

    All of the ex-prisoners I know (less than a dozen) would much rather be on parole (I assume that’s what you mean by “probation”) than behind bars.

  27. I’ve heard both terms, predominantly probation ( more than a dozen) from the coworkers I’ve talked to.
    Maybe it’s a WA v rest of Australia terminology thing.
    I don’t know, that’s just what they say.

    One of my closest Mates ( incarnated for GBH ) accepted everything from driving restrictions to curfews for 2 years on probation to shave 2 months off his time. Regretted it.

    The conditions had nothing whatsoever to do with the “ incident “ but he was desperate to see his Wife and daughters ASAP.

  28. Usually people are put on probation as an alternative to imprisoning them, with prison as a punishment if they don’t keep to the conditions. On the other hand, parole is for people who have been in prison and are released.
    I don’t believe the definitions vary between the states.
    And in passing, none of my mates (close or otherwise) has ever been found guilty of GBH. Just sayin’.

  29. Meanwhile, back on topic, I think Pell is on a hiding to nothing.
    If his appeal is successful he will only be found not guilty, in much the same way OJ Simpson was found not guilty.
    In that case justice can only be served if another reason is found for those two boys going off the rails, but as far as our court system is concerned the matter will be closed.
    I wonder if we could incorporate some aspects of European (Napoleonic?) jurisprudence where the duty of the judge(s) is to ascertain the truth of the matter?

  30. Pretty much, in the “ court of public opinion “ Pell is guilty now if he is or not.

    Does the idiotic glib slogan “ not my monkeys, not my circus “ apply here ?

  31. Does the idiotic glib slogan “ not my monkeys, not my circus “ apply here ?

    You have misquoted the English translation of the Polish saying nie mój cyrk, nie moje małpy.
    Did you intend to slander Polish people as glib idiots?

  32. GB:

    This points to a much broader problem in our whole criminal justice system: the privileged treatment of rich or influential criminals.

    Hard to argue. How many Australians could afford Pell’s defence team?
    However, it gets worse:
    The threat of “taking someone to court” backed up by the money and inclination to do this allows the rich to shut people up or bullying them into not pursuing their case because of direct costs and the risk that costs will be awarded against them. I doubt that the victim that finally brought Pell down could have afforded to take the Catholic church to court.
    Jumpy: A friend of mine who works at reducing drug overdoses in the US says the parole conditions are literally a killer because one of the conditions for drug addicts on parole is that they stay away from people taking drugs. Means staying to carry out CPR on someone who has OD’d means they could go back to jail when the cops arrive with the ambulance. (My understanding is that my friend has had some success in talking policce dept’s into changing their protocols to avoid this problem.
    He also commented that jail sentences of less than about 3 months are more effective than longer ones. This is because people live in terror for the first few months before learning to handle prison life. Once you have learned to survive in prison
    once the prospect of being sent back is much less terrifying.

  33. Zoot:

    I wonder if we could incorporate some aspects of European (Napoleonic?) jurisprudence where the duty of the judge(s) is to ascertain the truth of the matter?”

    if you want to follow that up you might investigate adversorial compared to inquisitorial systems of justice.

    I find “inquisitorial” attractive because it’s ‘truth-seeking’ but if the authorities get the wrong idea about you, you are probably toast.

  34. Thanks for that Brian. I agree that neither system is perfect.
    Probably the best course of action is to just not get caught. 🙂

  35. Jumpy

    On circuses and captive primates, I think it applies (for me) to another nation where I cannot vote. Their votes, their government. Their government, their weird laws.

    Our justice system is every adult’s circus. You may be called for jury duty. Our MPs influence prison conditions, and diversionary punishments such as “community service” in place of gaol time, or rehabilitation such as drug & alcohol counselling.

    We meet or work with ex-prisoners. We have opinions about whether Free Men who are on a sex offenders register should be banned from being near schools. Should Free Men who have high blood alcohol levels, drive? Should Free Men be compelled to wear seatbelts when dtiving?

    Is that suspicious activity next door? Should I phone the cops?

    Is the Legal Aid service being funded adequately?

    Will I be called to give evidence in a civil or criminal court proceeding?

  36. If the Pell case causes improvements in the conduct of police investigations and of court trials, if it brings about the complete overhaul in the prison system, if it destroys the thoroughly evil “confidentiality agreements”, if it shakes the Catholic Church into facing up to its responsibilities and duties, then this awful case will have done some good.

    By the way, I’m all for Restorative Justice rather than the current dogs’-breakfast that pretends to be our justice system. Applying restorative justice in the Pell case would have been an interesting challenge.

    John D. It is the issue of the certainty of costs that probably stops some victims going to the Police in the first place.

    zoot and Jumpy: Jest mo’j cyrk i sa, moje mal/py and it will cost you 15 zl/oty admission to come in to see them. 🙂

  37. There’s an interesting 54 minute podcast on the implications of this case over on . Go to Programs, scroll down to G, then click on God Forbid. It is this morning’s program. Sorry I couldn’t get you the direct link.

    Well worth hearing.

  38. Heard some of that “God Forbid” episode replayed today, Graham. Very good program; James Carleton is a good presenter: sharp as a tack.

    (Most of our radio listening is RN these days.)

    zoot and Jumpy: Jest mo’j cyrk i sa, moje mal/py and it will cost you 15 zl/oty admission to come in to see them.

    There’s an attractive offer Mr J!
    And in zloty too.

    Citizen Bell is showing entrepreneurial initiative by charging an entrance fee…. no better use of a lower primate by a higher primate, don’t you agree?

  39. Ambi, I’m not sure if you know already, but James Carleton has an alter ego – First Dog on the Moon.
    Make of that what you will (perhaps the end of civilisation as we know it?)

  40. I didn’t know.

    But FDOTM moved to Tassie, didn’t he?
    And cartoons for Guardian Australia where he has many fans both Aussie and British…..

    Do they have radio studios in Tassie??

    Next you’ll be telling me that zoot is an anagram of

    Me head’s spinnin’!!

  41. And yet, and yet….
    Mr Google tells me that First Dog is a pseudonym used by Andrew Marlton, cartoonist.


  42. I stand corrected.
    In my defense, either James Carleton presented the sadly missed regular Sunday morning RN program from the First Dog on the Moon Institute, or he and Andrew Marlton sound exactly the same.
    Another cherished belief dashed!

  43. Well,
    These days women in many countries do have all those freedoms (human rights), which I and various UN agencies, national courts etc. support.

    So, if your first reaction is that the list seems to be a criticism (open or implied) of religions, especially Islam, Jumpy, what does that tell us?

    * Are the foundations of Islam hostile to or restrictive of women’s rights?
    * Or is it States with Islamic majorities which enforce these restrictions?
    * Is democracy compatible with Islam? (Indonesia, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Tunisia,…..)
    * Are various other religious traditions hostile to, or restrictive of women’s freedoms? If so, why?

    I recall hearing a Malaysian Muslim woman on radio about 15 years ago, mocking the full-body covering of women in public in Middle Eastern countries. “It’s not in the Qu’ran”, she said, “It’s just an Arab custom!”

    There is a famous saying by Jesus: “render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s and render unto God that which is God’s”. There have been few clearer assertions that the State and Religion should be separate.

    A State should not impose restrictions on its citizens that derive chiefly from religious teachings. In Australia, a law prohibiting all abortions on the basis that some religions forbid their adherents to have that procedure, should be invalid.

    What of a religion that prohibits blood transfusions? What think you, Jumpy?

  44. … makes me think it’s a criticism of religious attitudes …

    Makes me think of that joke about the Rorschach test with the punch line, “Well you’re the one showing me dirty pictures”.

  45. It’s reported that a single TV camera will be allowed in the County Court this morning at 10am* for the sentencing of George Pell. The camera will show only the judge.

    No-one else is to be filmed in the court, including George Pell.

    His appeal against conviction will be heard over two days, several months from now.

    *Australian Eastern Daylight Summer Adjusted Non-Curtain-Fading Time, in Queen Victoria’s State, God Save the Queen!!!
    (because nothing will save the …….)

    Meanwhile, child abuse and sexual assault needs to be dealt with both in institutions and outside them.

    Wicked problem.

  46. George Pell has been sentenced to 6 years jail, with a non parole period of 3 years and 8 months.

    See The Guardian coverage here. article here.

    Pell will be on the sex offender register for life and he will also have to supply a forensic sample to police.

    Subject to appeal, Pell will be in custody into his early 80s.

  47. AMBI: For dry hot regions like the Middle East the logical clothing is loose clothing covers most of the body. I keeps the heat of the sun out while allowing some evaporative cooling under the clothing.
    For warm, humid regions lots of exposed skin is desirable.
    Problem is that clothing is often used to to send signals to people of the opposite sex. A bit more exposed skin than normal is considered provocative. Add a society where women are treated as property and some powerful men have a lot of wives while others have none and the pressure is on women to dress less provocatively.
    It is also worth noting that powerful people put pressure on religions to support things that are good for the powerful. Outsiders are also keen to impose their habits in countries they come to. Think of how the missionaries pressured Aboriginal women to wear unhygienic mother hubbards.
    Given all the above it is not surprising that Islam, which originated in a hot, dry country where powerful men have a lot of wives want women to cover up.
    When I was a student I went to the PNG highlands to help build some schools. Most of the women wore topless grass skirts and the boobs of the young women were a thing of interest for the young John D for a few days. After a few days they became ho hum and no longer a thing of provocation. My recollection is that the grass skirts of the single women were more provocative than those of the married women but I was probably missing the dress signals that indicated availability.
    This is just a long winded way of saying that we have to understand foreign religions and their restrictions in their cultural context if we are to sort out what is really important in foreign religions.

  48. I’m completely ignoring people who say the sentence was too short, or too long. The judge and the jury were the only ones who saw all the evidence, and the judge would know the factors that come into play.

    The only comment I would make is that I’ve thought before this that the judge may be overestimating Pell’s executive brain function contribution to what happened. He keeps saying there was calculation in what Pell did.

    Not saying there wasn’t but just have a question mark.

  49. The judge’s reasoning was set out clearly in the court. (It was broadcast on ABC News TV.) I’ve watched quite a bit of it.

    In my view the judge’s address to the court was as much about explaining the workings of the law to the public, as explaining his reasoning to the Cardinal.

  50. And yet David Marr didn’t hold back in sinking the slipper recently, after Cardinal Pell’s conviction was made public. “Homophobia” was only one of Mr Pell’s many secular sins, as Mr Marr opined.

    Nowt strange as folk.

  51. The Chief Judge’s sentencing remarks are available on the Victorian County Court website.

    38 pages.

  52. Was Marr really “sinking the slipper”?
    Anything of his that I’ve read on the subject seemed to me to be “just the facts ma’am”. But literary tone, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder so your mileage might vary.

  53. Patricia Karvelas did two good interviews on ABC RN Drive. The first was with Louise Milligan, who wrote a book about Pell and was the reporter on Four Corners. Milligan says she had got to know the main victim, and anyone who knew him would know he wasn’t lying.

    The second was with Dr. Vivian Waller, who represented the surviving victim.

    She said the sentencing was meticulous and thorough, and pointed out that sentencing takes into account the unique circumstances of a case, as well as the form from similar cases. She was happy that Pell’s health and age had been taken into account.

    In general the consensus seems to be that the judge was meticulous and thorough. We now await the appeal which appears to be scheduled for early June.

    BTW Waller said the victim’s evidence extended over three days. I think I said four.

  54. Brian (Re: MARCH 13, 2019 AT 10:42 PM)

    Milligan says she had got to know the main victim, and anyone who knew him would know he wasn’t lying.

    I don’t know the victim and I haven’t seen the evidence – few have. I can only hope justice has been served.

    Tony Abbott (with an on-air interview with 2GB’s Ray Hadley) and John Howard (with his character reference for pre-sentencing) appear to have publicly stuck by George Pell after the verdict was known.

    Can we really know someone (particularly if they are good at only showing what they want you to see)?

Comments are closed.