I knew George Pell’s convictions would be quashed

I knew it! I knew all along that the High Court of Australia would quash his convictions, but I kept my mouth shut until now for fear of being accused of being a pedo sympathiser (to be clear, I hate pedos). I regret (conveniently) for being a cuck on this matter.

I don’t like Cardinal Pell’s theology or social views, or the Catholic Church, and I never will. But just because one doesn’t like someone, or one dislike their views, that doesn’t mean they deserve to be convicted on evidence that don’t meet the ‘beyond reasonable doubt’ threshold.

Nice to finally see the criminal justice system at work, not the ‘social justice’ system. Criminal courts don’t ask whether an applicant committed the offences. Rather, they ask, inter alia, was it open to a jury to convict given the evidence, ie they must have entertained a reasonable doubt.

This is not a slap in the face for victims of sexual abuse. Rather, it is recognition that they’ve gone after the wrong alleged perpetrator. The need for justice shouldn’t be appeased by punishing the wrong person just because he’s a member of the class of people they’d love to punish. Here are the facts:

1. Conviction off the testimony of a single witness, the complainant, with the second alleged victim going to his grave insisting that no abuse had occurred.

2. Multiple potential witnesses present that day who either contradicted or couldn’t confirm the complainant’s account.

3. At the Victorian Supreme Court, his conviction by a lower court was affirmed on a 2–1 majority. Of the three judges, only one had a criminal law background and he was the dissenting judge.

He actually hasn’t been found covering up the crimes of his subordinates either. The most damning argument I’ve seen of this is where he admitted to learning about a case the police were already investigating and not coming forward against the perpetrator. It’s worth noting that you’re not required to testify against people unless called forward by the police, which they didn’t do to Pell.

I’ve seen sexual assault trials thrown out of court on stronger evidence than what Pell was originally convicted on. About 2–7% of criminal convictions are estimated to be false.

The High Court’s finding is an indictment against jury trials in our modern era, especially for high-profile cases. And I’m not just saying this because of some of the unhinged meltdowns from those who are angry that Cardinal Pell got off without reading the judgment or understanding the well-founded reasoning.

There are too many people, including some media commentators, who so blindly wanted him to be found innocent and the victim of a witchhunt. Some say that human tribalism is natural and that we’re all wired to try and make events fit into our own ‘grand narratives’ in a way that validates them. Even if we can’t always be certain about what actually happened.

The ‘priests are pedos’ trope has a lot of currency amongst people angered by church child sex abuse scandals. Yet the evidence is that you’re just as (if not more) likely to be abused in a secular organisation, like a public school or youth group, as a religious one. Predators seek out positions of influence and trust regardless of whether they’re religious in nature or not.

Similarly, there’s a tendency in many religious groups to view allegations of abuse as being an attack on the faith and church as a whole rather than aimed at a possible abuser. This kind of horrible attitude is partly why the church, including that under Pell, so badly handled historical complaints of abuse in Catholic institutions. That abusers were often simply moved on to other parishes is something they should rightly hold their heads in shame for. But neither attitude, however passionate, serves the interests of truth or justice.

At the very least, it seems that avoiding a jury trial for such a high-profile case is a way to mitigate these human passions. That a unanimous jury produced a guilty verdict that was not only not beyond reasonable doubt, but based on such scant evidence that a guilty verdict was itself entirely unreasonable (High Court’s reasoning), shows that it will be very difficult for most high-profile public figures accused of heinous crimes to get their fair day in court.

Pronouns: who/cares | TransCatholic Liberal Arts student @notredameaus | @AUMallard contributor | all opinions expressed here are my own