OBSERVATIONS ON THE PELL PROCEEDINGS
Frank Brennan SJ
Paperback, 160 pages, $29.95
April 8, 2021 Release
Cardinal George Pell pleaded not guilty before a jury to child sexual assault charges in 2018. The public knew little of the proceedings because the trial judge had imposed a suppression order, prohibiting the media from publicising the evidence and court proceedings. Fr Frank Brennan SJ was asked by the Australian Catholic bishops to follow the proceedings and to offer commentary on the conduct of the proceedings once the suppression orders were lifted. The bishops asked that the commentary be seen, as far as possible, to be clear, objective and impartial. Cardinal Pell granted Brennan access to the published transcript of the proceedings.
At the first trial, the jury could not reach agreement. So Pell was tried again when the jury convicted him of all five charges. Brennan attended critical parts of both trials, as well as the unsuccessful appeal before Victorian Supreme Court and the successful appeal in the High Court of Australia with all seven members of the nation’s highest court acquitting Pell of all charges on 7 April 2020. After the initial conviction and after the ultimate acquittal, Brennan wrote a series of articles and was interviewed in the media. This book provides a chronology of his reportage, including an assessment of the flawed adverse findings made against Pell by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Brennan identifies the failures of the Victoria police, prosecution authorities, and Victoria’s two most senior judges. Brennan concludes that these failures ‘did nothing to help the efforts being made to address the trauma of institutional child sexual abuse. As a society we need to do better, and the legal system needs to play its part.’
Fr Frank Brennan SJ AO is Rector of Newman College at the University of Melbourne. He is a Distinguished Fellow of the PM Glynn Institute at Australian Catholic University and an Adjunct Professor at the Thomas More Law School at ACU. He is the author of numerous books on human rights having chaired the Australian Government’s 2009 National Human Rights Consultation and having been a member of the Australian Government’s 2018 Religious Freedom Review. Most recently he has served on the Australian Government’s Senior Advisory Group designing a proposed ‘Indigenous Voice’ for the First Nations Peoples in Australia.