The Catholic Weekly 5 September 2021

I t’s time to declare that George Pell is innocent of the preposterous charg- es he faced in the County Court of Victoria and to move on for the good of everyone, including bona fide com- plainants and victims of child sexual abuse in institutions. Because of the suppres- sion orders put in place by the County Court, you were unable to follow the trials of Cardinal George Pell day by day. That’s why I was asked to attend the proceedings. That’s why I have published a book, Observations on the Pell Pro- ceedings – so you can make your own assessment of the evidence. My book is dedicated ‘to those who seek truth, justice and healing and to those who have been denied them.’ Hav- ing followed the Pell proceed- ings closely, I am convinced that the case did nothing to help bona fide complainants, victims, and their supporters. I write in the introduction: “The failures of the Victoria police, prosecution author- ities, and the two most sen- ior Victorian judges in these proceedings did nothing to help the efforts being made to address the trauma of institu- tional child sexual abuse. As a society we need to do better, and the legal system needs to play its part.” I am convinced that light and healing can be more readily sought and hoped for if appropriate steps are tak- en to correct the errors made in the Pell proceedings. The compounding errors resulted in the unanimous judgment of the High Court of Australia which placed the Victorian criminal justice system in a very poor light. I was left in no doubt. Car- dinal Pell was innocent of these charges. He should nev- er have even been charged. At the first trial, the jury could not agree. So a sec- ond trial was held at which Pell was convicted of all five charges. The Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the convic- tions by 2-1. The dissenting judge was Mark Weinberg, the most experienced crimi- nal appeal court judge in the country. He has now com- pletely retired from the bench having taken up the demand- ing task of Special Investiga- tor into the Afghanistan war crime allegations. The High Court sat all seven judges on FR FRANK BRENNAN SJ AO Anatomy of a Travesty Exploring ideas that matter ista V 13 5 September, 2021 Key witnesses not interviewed by Victoria Police, surreal legal rulings and a feral media: Fr Frank Brennan SJ dissects the shabby tale of how justice disintegrated in Victoria just when it was needed most ... PHOTO: GIOVANNI PORTELLI “The most basic police work would have exposed this early in an investigation, particularly in a properly-run investigation