Tag Archives: The Bell Society

May 22 2020 – “NINTH COMMANDMENT CONCERNS ABOUT THE BISHOP OF CHICHESTER” – ANGLICAN LINK

Rt-Revd-Dr-Martin-Warner-main_article_image

Present Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner

Letter to the editor: Ninth commandment concerns about the Bishop of Chichester

Letter to the editor: Ninth commandment concerns about the Bishop of Chichester

Richard Symonds of The Bell Society believes the General Synod of the Church of England and the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse should investigate the Bishop of Chichester for being “economic with the truth” in his statements on his handling of clergy sexual abuse cases. He writes:

 

Sir:

The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner makes very clear at the IICSA in March 2018, the Church’s insurance company at the time – presumably Ecclesiastical? – was fully involved in (and I’m sure was fully paid for) the advice to the Church, and presumably its Core Group, regarding Bishop Bell and ‘Carol’:

Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018 – Page 21 – Fiona Scolding QC: “The other matter I want to put to you is [quoting Lord Carlile]: ‘There was no organised or valuable enquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality.’ What is your response to that?”

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner: “The question of an organised or valuable inquiry is something of a value judgement, I think, and we certainly didn’t feel that there was no serious inquiry into that which was undertaken through our insurers and their legal representative in whom we had considerable trust and regard and who Lord Carlile also recognises as a responsible and able person. I see him to say that the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. It was certainly given proportionality. We understood absolutely that was the case. I think the area which he’s rightly also identified is that there was nobody there to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again, with the benefit of hindsight, is something that I think was wrong…”

Mr. David Lamming, Church of England’s General Synod Member representing St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich, further comments: ‘Bishop Martin Warner’s answer to Fiona Scolding’s question at IICSA [Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse] on 14 March 2018 about the involvement of insurers in the settlement of ‘Carol’s’ claim (see…Richard Symonds’s comment) appears to be at odds with information he provided to me in 2016.’

At General Synod on 8 July 2016 I asked a question about the contribution to the settlement made by the Church Commissioners. The question was answered by the then First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith. In the light of his written answer, I asked by way of a supplementary “whether insurers were asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, whether and why they declined to do so?”’

This was Sir Andreas’s response: “You are accrediting the Church Commissioners with far more involvement in this case than you might think. We have a discretion to pay bishops’ costs, as you probably know, and we make judgments on what costs to bear on a variety of factors. In this case, the answers are really clear in my answer. I do not think I can add to them. There are the damages; there are the claimant’s legal costs and there are the Diocese of Chichester’s costs. We paid £29,800 of those and a private individual came forward, not an insurer, and paid the rest. I cannot add to that.”’

His answer led to the following exchange with Martin Sewell:

Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester): There is a very simple question on the table: did any insurer decline to indemnify?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I have no idea whether an insurer was involved. We were not told about such a case.
Mr Martin Sewell: Who would know?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: The Diocese of Chichester would know.
Mr Martin Sewell: Will that information be made available?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I cannot speak for the Diocese of Chichester, I am afraid.’

In the light of this exchange I e-mailed the Bishop of Chichester on 25 July 2016, asking (inter alia), “Were insurers involved at any stage prior to the settlement with Carol? If so, were they asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, did they decline to do so or to indemnify the Diocese and, if so, why?”’

This was Bishop Martin’s reply in an e-mail on 29 July 2016: “No relevant insurance was held in respect of this claim, so no insurers were involved in the case and no requests were made to any insurer. As Sir Andreas said in his reply to the Synod, the costs and damages were paid by the Commissioners and a private individual who wishes to remain anonymous. The claim was made against me in my corporate capacity.”

Yours sincerely

Richard W. Symonds, The Bell Society

Ifield Village, Crawley-Gatwick, West Sussex RH11 0NN
Email: richardsy5@aol.com

MAY 22 2020 – “IS THE PRESENT LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER [MARTIN WARNER] IN LOCKDOWN AND IN DENIAL ABOUT A PAST LORD BISHOP OF CHICHESTER [GEORGE BELL]?

Rt-Revd-Dr-Martin-Warner-main_article_image

Present Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner

Is the present Lord Bishop of Chichester [Martin Warner] in lockdown and in denial about a past Lord Bishop of Chichester [George Bell]?

MAY 19 2020 – BISHOP GEORGE BELL AND THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND’S MISCARRIAGE OF JUSTICE

IMG_6013

St. Margaret’s 13th Century Parish Church in Ifield Village – RWS Photography – May 19 2020AD

The following exchange of comments on ‘Thinking Anglicans’ suggest the present Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner was ‘economic with the truth’ in either 2016 or 2018.

Either way, the IICSA – and the General Synod – should investigate a serious breach of the law which has contributed to a serious miscarriage of justice.

Mr Richard W. Symonds of the Bell Society comments:

‘The Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner makes very clear at the IICSA in March 2018, the Church’s insurance company at the time – presumably Ecclesiastical? – was fully involved in (and I’m sure was fully paid for) the advice to the Church, and presumably its Core Group, regarding Bishop Bell and ‘Carol’:

https://richardwsymonds.wordpress.com/2019/01/13/jan-13-2019-from-the-archives-iicsa-march-2018/

Day 8 IICSA Inquiry – Chichester 14 March 2018 – Page 21

Fiona Scolding QC

“The other matter I want to put to you is [quoting Lord Carlile]: ‘There was no organised or valuable enquiry or investigation into the merits of the allegations, and the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality.’ What is your response to that?”

Bishop of Chichester Martin Warner

“The question of an organised or valuable inquiry is something of a value judgement, I think, and we certainly didn’t feel that there was no serious inquiry into that which was undertaken through our insurers and their legal representative in whom we had considerable trust and regard and who Lord Carlile also recognises as a responsible and able person. I see him to say that the standpoint of Bishop Bell was never given parity or proportionality. It was certainly given proportionality. We understood absolutely that was the case. I think the area which he’s rightly also identified is that there was nobody there to speak for Bishop Bell, and that, again, with the benefit of hindsight, is something that I think was wrong…”

 

Mr. David Lamming, Church of England’s General Synod Member representing St. Edmundsbury & Ipswich, comments :
‘Bishop Martin Warner’s answer to Fiona Scolding’s question at IICSA [Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse] on 14 March 2018 about the involvement of insurers in the settlement of ‘Carol’s’ claim (see…Richard Symonds’s comment) appears to be at odds with information he provided to me in 2016.
‘At General Synod on 8 July 2016 I asked a question about the contribution to the settlement made by the Church Commissioners. The question was answered by the then First Church Estates Commissioner, Sir Andreas Whittam Smith. In the light of his written answer, I asked by way of a supplementary “whether insurers were asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, whether and why they declined to do so?”
‘This was Sir Andreas’s response: “You are accrediting the Church Commissioners with far more involvement in this case than you might think. We have a discretion to pay bishops’ costs, as you probably know, and we make judgments on what costs to bear on a variety of factors. In this case, the answers are really clear in my answer. I do not think I can add to them. There are the damages; there are the claimant’s legal costs and there are the Diocese of Chichester’s costs. We paid £29,800 of those and a private individual came forward, not an insurer, and paid the rest. I cannot add to that.”
‘His answer led to the following exchange with Martin Sewell:
Mr Martin Sewell (Rochester): There is a very simple question on the table: did any insurer decline to indemnify?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I have no idea whether an insurer was involved. We were not told about such a case.
Mr Martin Sewell: Who would know?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: The Diocese of Chichester would know.
Mr Martin Sewell: Will that information be made available?
Sir Andreas Whittam Smith: I cannot speak for the Diocese of Chichester, I am afraid.
‘In the light of this exchange I e-mailed the Bishop of Chichester on 25 July 2016, asking (inter alia), “Were insurers involved at any stage prior to the settlement with Carol? If so, were they asked to contribute to the settlement and, if so, did they decline to do so or to indemnify the Diocese and, if so, why?”
‘This was Bishop Martin’s reply in an e-mail on 29 July 2016: “No relevant insurance was held in respect of this claim, so no insurers were involved in the case and no requests were made to any insurer. As Sir Andreas said in his reply to the Synod, the costs and damages were paid by the Commissioners and a private individual who wishes to remain anonymous. The claim was made against me in my corporate capacity.”
The full exchange of Qs and As at General Synod can be read in the Report of Proceedings, July 2016, at pages 58-59:
https://www.churchofengland.org/sites/default/files/2017-10/July%202016%20Report%20of%20Proceedings%20w.index_.pdf’
Richard W. Symonds ~ The Bell Society

 

“CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL MARKS 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY” – EASTBOURNE HERALD – MAY 8 2020

IMG_5801

Bishop of Chichester George Bell receiving the Freedom of the City from the Mayor of Chichester Alice Eastland in 1954 [Source: ‘Chichester in the 1960’s’ by Alan H.J. Green – History Press 2015]

“CHICHESTER CATHEDRAL MARKS 75TH ANNIVERSARY OF VE DAY” – EASTBOURNE HERALD – MAY 8 2020

The Very Rev Stephen Waine said:

“Communities around the country had events planned for VE Day which have now been cancelled, including Chichester Cathedral.

“We are delighted to offer this online service for those at home, as well as to be encouraging people to take part in the Big Picnic For Hope, as a way of remembering the heroes of the past and present.”

~ Phil Hewitt – Eastbourne Herald

 

LETTER SUBMISSION – MAY 8 2020

Dear Editor

Dean of Chichester Cathedral, The Very Rev Stephen Waine, says [‘Chichester Cathedral marks 75th Anniversary of VE Day’, Eastbourne Herald, May 8)

“We are delighted to offer this online service for those at home, as well as to be encouraging people to take part in the Big Picnic For Hope, as a way of remembering the heroes of the past and present”

With hope, I will also be remembering a past hero – George Bell, Bishop of Chichester – one of the greatest and bravest wartime bishops of the 20th century.

 

Yours sincerely

 

Richard W. Symonds

The Bell Society

 

 

RESPONSES TO LETTER SUBMISSION

 

“Thank you for sending me this. I am sure it will not be given a fervent welcome, either in the Deanery or in the Bishop’s residence. I’m afraid that Martin Warner’s seemingly total lack of a conscience, or of an understanding of the requirements of justice, leaves me ever more frustrated”

Revd B

 

 

‘BUILDING BRIDGES’ LETTER SUBMISSION

keep-rebuilding-bridges-working

 

Dear Editor

While full legal investigations concluded sex abuse allegations were well-founded against the now-deceased former Bishop of Lewes Peter Ball, full legal investigations concluded sex abuse allegations were unfounded against the long-deceased wartime Bishop of Chichester George Bell.
Bridges must be built between victims of sexual abuse and victims falsely accused of sexual abuse.
A just and compassionate response is required on both sides.
Might this now be a good time to let go of the past to avert an already deeply divisive schism between these two sides? We cannot change the past, but we can move forward by making justice and compassion the foundation-stones for a better future.
Proof of innocence for those accused of sexual abuse is not possible – only a ‘not guilty’ verdict – so it is critical due process of law and the presumption of innocence are followed to prevent miscarriages of justice.
Is it possible to have two presumptions – the presumption of innocence for alleged sexual abusers and the presumption of truth for survivors of sexual abuse?
If that’s the very best we can do – let’s do it.
Yours sincerely
Richard W. Symonds
dims-4

“THE LEGAL CASES OF CARDINAL GEORGE PELL AND BISHOP GEORGE BELL ARE VERY DIFFERENT, BUT THERE ARE PARALLELS WHICH CANNOT BE IGNORED – SUCH AS THE CRITICAL IMPORTANCE OF PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE IN THE ENDLESS QUEST FOR JUSTICE AND FAIRNESS” ~ Richard W. Symonds

“The legal cases of Cardinal George Pell and Bishop George Bell are very different, but there are parallels which cannot be ignored – such as the critical importance of Presumption of Innocence in the endless quest for justice and fairness”

Richard W. Symonds – The Bell Society

April 20 2020 – “Cardinal Pell: Natural and Inalienable Rights” – ‘Philosophical Investigations’

 

justice4

Monday, 20 April 2020

Cardinal Pell: Natural and Inalienable Rights

by Richard W. Symonds

The Church of St Cyriac, Lacock, by GB_1984

The principle of the presumption of innocence is of extreme importance, and the case of Cardinal George Pell has implications for the respect for—and security of—this principle.That one is considered innocent until proven guilty is a vital pre-condition for our survival and well-being within a civilised society. Undermining such jurisprudence can lead to catastrophic miscarriages of justice which ultimately threaten our humanity—in fact, yours and mine.

The accused is not required to defend or prove their innocence—it is for the accuser to prove guilt—beyond reasonable doubt. It is one of the foundational legal principles—a bedrock of our civilisation: ‘The burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies’. Or Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat in the ancient Latin.

Presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial, and an international human right embodied under Article 11 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

A just law must be a fair law, which punishes the guilty, not the innocent. Presumption of innocence is an immunity against unjust accusations.

In the case of Cardinal George Pell, a disturbing and dislocating miscarriage of justice has been exposed within Australia’s justice system—and presumption of innocence was almost lethally compromised and undermined.

A basic history of events—a timelined chronology if you will—would help:

• July 16 1996 — Bishop George Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. A former choirboy later testifies that the bishop molested him and his friend—both aged 13—in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne that year, after Mass.
• March 26 2001 — Archbishop Pell becomes Archbishop of Sydney.
• October 21 2003 — Pope John Paul II makes Archbishop Pell a Cardinal.
• February 25 2014 — Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Pell as his Finance Minister — Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.
• April 8 2014 — One of the choirboys dies aged 31, of a heroin overdose, without alleging the molestation by Pell, in fact telling his mother he had not been abused by Pell.
• August 5 2014 — Victoria police establish a task force to investigate how religious and other non-government organizations [NGO’s] deal with abuse accusations.
• June 18 2015 — The surviving choirboy gives his first statement to the police, claiming sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell.
• December 23 2015 — The Victoria Police task force appeals publicly for information relating to allegations of sexual abuse while Cardinal George Pell was Archbishop fo Melbourne.
• March 1 2016 — Cardinal Pell testifies by video link from Rome, to the Australian child abuse inquiry. Pell is critical on how the Church has dealt with paedophile priests in the past, but *denies he had been aware of the extent of the problem.
• October 19 2016 — Victoria police go to Rome to question Cardinal Pell, who hears details of the choirboy’s abuse allegations against him for the first time.
• June 29 2017 — Police charge Cardinal Pell with multiple counts of historical sexual abuse. This makes him the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged in the Church’s abuse crisis. Pell denies the accusations and takes leave of absence from the Vatican to return to Australia to defend himself.
• July 26 2017 — Cardinal Pell makes his first court appearance on charges that he sexually abused multiple children in Victoria decades earlier. Details of the allegations are not made public. Pell vows to fight the allegations.
• May 1 2018 — A Magistrate commits Cardinal Pell to stand trial. He pleads not guilty to all charges.
• May 2 2018 — A Judge separates the charges into two trials; the first dating to his tenure as Archbishop of Melbourne, and the other when he was a young priest in Ballarat during the 1970’s.
• December 11 2018 — The jury unanimously convicts Cardinal Pell on all charges in the Melbourne case.
• February 26 2019 — A suppression order forbidding publication of any details about the trial is lifted. Prosecutors abandon trial on the Ballarat charges.
• March 13 2019 — The judge sentences Cardinal Pell to six years in prison, on five sex abuse convictions, in which he must serve 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.
• August 21 2019 — Victoria Court of Appeal rules 2–1 to uphold the convictions, but there is ‘stinging dissent’ by that Court’s leading criminal law expert.
• The High Court, Australia’s top court, in an unusual procedural move, agrees to hear Cardinal Pell’s leave to appeal, and his actual substantive appeal, concurrently.
• April 7 2020 — All seven judges of the High Court of the Australian Court of Appeal quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. In a volte-face, they unanimously agree the appeal has succeeded, dismiss all convictions, and release Cardinal Pell immediately—after he spent 13 months in high-security prisons. 

In overturning the jury’s decision of December 2018, the seven High Court judges said the jury, ‘acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted’.There was ‘a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted, because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof’. The High Court referred to what it called ‘the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses’ at the 2018 trial, which suggested there was cause for doubt.

This case has attracted world-wide attention for good reason.

What lies at the heart of our justice system is Lord Sankey’s ‘golden thread’ which runs through criminal and common law: Guilt must be proved by the accuser’s prosecution beyond any reasonable doubt. This undoubtedly did not take place in before the High Court judges intervened this April 2020 to make just the injustice.

It is better many guilty go free rather than one innocent is wrongly convicted and jailed for a crime they did not commit.

The Cardinal is entitled to be presumed innocent because that is what the Presumption of Innocence is all about—innocent until proven guilty.

Beware the spirit of the age. Alan Ryan, a professor of politics at Princeton University, sounded the alert thirty-two years ago: ‘Natural and inalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness have fallen into disrepute, along with a faith in reason and reason’s dictates.’

Comments 8

Peter Hitchens

April 21 2019 – Peter Hitchens on Liberty, Justice and the decline of the Jury – and the Presumption of Innocence

Excerpt

In 1907, when the English Court of Criminal Appeal was first set up, there were warnings that it would undermine the authority of the jury, since it could overturn a guilty verdict (though not an acquittal). And it is easy to see why some defenders of juries were worried. A principle can be undermined from more than one direction. But as it happened, the danger to juries came from a different source—from the increasing egalitarianism of society itself, and the resulting politicization of so many trials. Judges became less elitist and more political, as did prosecutors. The sexual revolution created a whole new class of crimes, and created a whole new set of procedures to try them. It granted anonymity to accusers, a change that met with surprisingly weak opposition. 

I did not really understand the force of this until I found myself unexpectedly defending the long-dead Bishop George Bell against ancient charges of child sex abuse. Bishop Bell could not be tried because he was deceased. But the Church of England’s treatment of his case very much reflected the new arrangements. He was more or less presumed guilty. His unnamed accuser was designated a victim and a “survivor,” not an alleged victim, before any inquiry began. The procedure that adjudged him guilty, in private, did not follow the presumption of innocence and made no serious effort to discover if there was a defense (there was). I found to my shock that an inaccurate claim—that he would have been arrested if alive—persuaded many apparently fair-minded, educated, and intelligent people of his guilt, though an arrest is evidence of nothing at all. Thanks to some truly dedicated and determined work by many selfless people, and some very good legal work as well, the thing was more or less set right. But a grudging Church of England has yet to make full restitution. 

So when I saw the case in Australia against Cardinal George Pell, it was not just the similar name that aroused my interest. I knew from a recent visit to Sydney that Australia had undergone an anti-religious revolution. I knew very well how powerful allegations of child abuse had been in weakening the Church. My instincts were to believe that George Pell, who behaved like an innocent man, had been wrongly accused. But what if this was just bias? I sought to keep an open mind. I would presume the cardinal was innocent, but would not let my Christian sympathy close my mind to serious evidence against him. I had taken the same view in the Bell case. I resolved at the beginning never to be afraid of the truth. If the evidence against George Bell was convincing beyond reasonable doubt, then I would have to change my view of a man whose brave and selfless actions I had much admired. I would have to accept that the world was a bleaker, worse place than even I had feared. I knew well enough that there were pedophile priests. The same had to apply to Cardinal Pell. 

And then a strange silence fell over the trial. I know that there were valid legal reasons for this silence, but it still seems to me that some way should have been found for a case of such moment to be heard openly and reported openly, while it was going on. When Pell was convicted, I felt I had to accept the verdict because I was in no position to dispute it, and had not heard what the jury had heard. But the whole sky darkened at the news. If such a man was guilty of such a filthy thing, and a jury had agreed upon this after a fair trial, then the forces of goodness were in rapid and frightening retreat.   

And then, amid the dismal suppression of freedom and the economic lunacy now gripping the world, came a sudden shaft of light. The High Court of Australia overturned the verdict and freed Cardinal Pell. And then I read what they had said. It was startling and disturbing, not because there was any ambiguity in it, but because of something else. A court statement declared, 

The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

 The judges ruled: 

On the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents. 

This seems to me to be a very polite way of suggesting that the jury did not entertain that reasonable doubt. I may be very grateful that the High Court took this view, because it seems to me that justice was done when George Pell was freed. But will there always be such High Courts, and will most people be able to reach them? In this egalitarian world, in which a series of inglorious revolutions has wholly changed the nature of justice, I am not sure that the old English jury is much of a defense anymore. And I cannot begin to say how sad this makes me.

Peter Hitchens 

“CARDINAL PELL AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE” BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS

Cardinal George Pell released from Australia’s Geelong prison – April 7, 2020. 
 (James Ross/AAP Image via AP)

 

I have been prompted to write this article because of the close parallels with the Bishop Bell case. [See ‘Afternote’ at end of article].

Richard W. Symonds

CARDINAL PELL AND THE PRESUMPTION OF INNOCENCE” BY RICHARD W. SYMONDS OF THE BELL SOCIETY – 

The principle of the presumption of innocence is of extreme importance, and the case of Cardinal George Pell has implications for the respect for – and security of – this principle. 

That one is considered innocent until proven guilty is a vital pre-condition for our survival and well-being within a civilised society. Undermining such jurisprudence can lead to catastrophic miscarriages of justice which ultimately threaten our humanity.

‘Ei incumbit probatio qui dicit, non qui negat’ is one of the foundational legal principles – a bedrock of our civilization: ‘the burden of proof is on the one who declares, not on one who denies’. The accused is not required to defend or prove their innocence; it is for the accuser to prove guilt – beyond reasonable doubt. 
Presumption of innocence is a legal right of the accused in a criminal trial and an international human right embodied under Article 11 of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
A just law must be a fair law which punishes the guilty, not the innocent. Presumption of innocence is an immunity against unjust accusations.
In the case of Cardinal George Pell, a disturbing and dislocating miscarriage of justice has been exposed within Australia’s justice system – and presumption of innocence has been lethally compromised and undermined.
A basic history of events – a timelined chronology if you will – might help:
July 16 1996 – Bishop George Pell is appointed Archbishop of Melbourne. A former choirboy later testifies Bishop Pell molested him and his friend – both aged 13 – in the vestry of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne that year, after Mass.

March 26 2001 – Archbishop Pell becomes Archbishop of Sydney.

October 21 2003 – Pope John Paul II makes Archbishop Pell a Cardinal.

February 25 2014 – Pope Francis appoints Cardinal Pell as his Finance Minister – Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy.

April 8 2014 – One of the choirboys dies aged 31 of a heroin overdose, without alleging the molestation by Pell and telling his mother he had not been abused by Pell.

August 5 2014 – Victoria police establish a Task Force to investigate how religious and other non-government organizations [NGO’s] deal with abuse accusations.

June 18 2015 – The surviving choirboy gives his first statement to the police, claiming sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell.

December 23 2015 – The Victoria Police Task Force appeals publicly for information relating to allegations of sexual abuse while Cardinal George Pell was Melbourne Archbishop.

March 1 2016 – Cardinal Pell testifies by video link from Rome to the Australian child abuse inquiry. Pell was critical on how the Church had dealt with paedophile priests in the past, but denied he had been aware of the extent of the problem.

October 19 2016 – Victoria police go to Rome to question Cardinal Pell who hears details of the choirboy’s abuse allegations against him for the first time.

June 29 2017 – Police charge Pell with multiple counts of historical sexual abuse. This made him the most senior Catholic cleric to be charged in the Church’s abuse crisis. Pell denied the accusations and took leave of absence from the Vatican to return to Australia to defend himself.

July 26 2017 – Cardinal Pell makes his first court appearance on charges that he sexually abused multiple children in Victoria decades earlier. Details of the allegations were not made public. Pell vows to fight the allegations.

May 1 2018 – A Magistrate commits Cardinal Pell to stand trial. He pleads not guilty to all charges.

May 2 2018 – A Judge separates the charges into two trials; the first dating to his tenure as Melbourne Archbishop and the other when he was a young priest in Ballarat during the 1970’s.

December 11 2018 – Jury unanimously convicts Cardinal Pell on all charges in the Melbourne case.

February 26 2019 – Suppression order forbidding publication of any details about the trial is lifted. Prosecutors abandon trial on the Ballarat charges.

March 13 2019 – Judge sentences Cardinal Pell to six years in prison on five sex abuse convictions in which he must serve 3 years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.

August 21 2019 – Victoria Court of Appeal rules 2-1 to uphold the convictions, but there is “stinging dissent” by that Court’s leading criminal law expert.

The High Court, Australia’s top court, in an unusual procedural move, agrees to hear Cardinal Pell’s leave to appeal, and his actual substantive appeal, concurrently.

April 7 2020 – All seven judges of the High Court of the Australian Court of Appeal quash the conviction of Cardinal George Pell. In a volte-face, they unanimously agree the appeal has succeeded, dismiss all convictions, and release Cardinal Pell immediately – after he spent 13 months in high-security prisons. 

In overturning the jury’s decision of December 2018, the seven High Court judges said the jury, “acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted”. There was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”. The High Court referred to what it called “the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses” at the 2018 trial, which suggested there was cause for doubt.

This case has attracted world-wide attention for good reason.

It is clear Cardinal George Pell should never have been convicted. It is clear he should never have spent 13 months incarcerated behind bars. It is clear there was a miscarriage of justice in the December 2018 jury conviction. It is clear Victoria’s Court of Appeal upholding the judge’s March 2019 conviction was wrong.

What lies at the heart of our justice system is Lord Sankey’s ‘golden thread’ which runs through criminal and common law: Guilt must be proved by the accuser’s prosecution beyond any reasonable doubt. This undoubtedly did not take place in the case of Cardinal Pell, before the High Court judges intervened this April to make just the injustice.

It is better many guilty go free rather than one innocent is wrongly convicted and jailed for a crime they did not commit.

The unanimous High Court judgement makes explicit the standard of reasonable doubt and makes implicit criticisms of the Victoria Court of Appeal for not understanding what that means. There was a presumption of guilt on their part, but he has now been found ‘not guilty’ beyond reasonable doubt.The Cardinal is therefore entitled to be presumed innocent because that is what  the Presumption of Innocence is all about – innocent until proven guilty.

AFTERNOTE

Yesterday’s Daily Telegraph carried an item about a new abuse allegation having just been made against Cardinal Pell, following his recent acquittal [“New child abuse police inquiry into cardinal”, DT, April 14 2020 – Page 15].

IMG_5446

This reminds me particularly of the events of Jan/Feb 2018, immediately following the Carlile Review (see Chronology below) – and has prompted the “Cardinal Pell and the Presumption of Innocence” piece.