No doubt everyone will be aware by now that George Pell has failed in his attempt to have his conviction overturned in the Victoria Court of Appeal last month.
The Court of Appeal found in a judgment of two Judges to one, that it was open to the Jury to find George Pell guilty on the evidence presented at the trial. Mr Pell also appealed on two technical legal questions. On those questions, all three Judges dismissed his appeal.
The case is very much a routine criminal matter where the evidence either supports or does not support a finding of guilt. The most disturbing and unusual feature of this case is not the court case itself but the reaction to the decision.
Many cannot accept that a Jury of 12 of Mr Pell’s peers could find Pell was guilty, and then an Appeals Court, made up of some of the most distinguished Judges in the country, decide that the verdict was reasonable. It should be remembered that Mr Pell has had the benefit of a very experienced defence team giving him the best representation that money can buy.
The Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, believes that Mr Pell is innocent, but he also believes that the complainant is telling the truth; that he was abused, but just not by Cardinal Pell. The Archbishop believes that it is a case of mistaken identity. Such a position is difficult to understand and was not even put forward in Pell’s defence at trial.
The Age newspaper, News.com.au, and conservative magazines such as Quadrant, have published articles highlighting the dissenting Judge’s view on why the conviction should be overturned. Social media is overflowing with comments about how unjust the decision was.
Very few convicted criminals have received the support that George Pell has, since being charged with similar crimes. George Pell however, is now a convicted paedophile who could not convince a Court of Appeal of his innocence.
George Pell has one last avenue for redemption – an appeal to the High Court. It is not altogether clear whether the High Court will even hear the matter. A decision on that will be made later in the year. If heard by the High Court, a decision may not be handed down until late next year.
In the meantime, the actions of those defending George Pell do damage to the wellbeing of victims who fear not being believed and our system of justice.