Justice Denied in Priest Abuse Case?

The Australian High Court has overturned a guilty jury verdict against Cardinal George Pell, the highest-ranking Vatican official to be accused of the sexual abuse of minors. The original jury found him guilty of five counts of sexual abuse of minors and an appellate court upheld the jury verdict. The High Court ruled today that the jury didn’t make the right decision and overturned the verdict, undermining the jury system in Australia and perhaps other countries including the United States.

The High Court dismissed the verdict stating that the jury couldn’t have possibly come to a correct conclusion based on the evidence.

“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 court said in a judgment summary April 7.

The ruling undermines the testimony of credible survivors who have come forward seeking justice for themselves and other children who may be harmed in the future.

As sexual abuse advocates, we know that most if not all abuse takes place in secret. The abuser is careful to pick times and places when they won’t be caught. The one abused is the lone witness to the truth. To have this undercut by the High Court undermines every survivor that is courageous enough to come forward and tell his/her story.

In reality, it’s a whitewash of the truth and a perversion of the legal system that is based on the jury system. The jury reached a verdict after five days of deliberation and that decision was upheld by an appellate court. Now, the High Court of Australia weighs in and reverses that. Where is the justice? On what basis was the decision made? If the High Court doesn’t trust the jury, doesn’t that undercut the entire legal system?

At Rheingold Law, we are committed to protecting your rights. We stand with those abuse survivors who stand alone against powerful institutions like the Catholic Church and the Boy Scouts of America, to name just a few. Justice is not justice if it isn’t for all of us. Cardinal Pell is the highest ranking Vatican official to be accused of sexual abuse However, that decision has implications for other cases around the world. Survivors of abuse should be treated fairly and not held to some higher standard just because those whom they accuse have a high position in society.