This is not just a trial for Pell and the church. It is a test of our institutions, our justice system and the culture of our civil society. Paul Kelly in The Australian today.
This decision by Victoria Police comes after an unprecedented and manic campaign against Pell, leaks to the media, vicious character assaults in the mainstream media and grave doubts about the way police have conducted their inquiries.
This is not just a trial for Pell and the church. It is a test of our institutions, our justice system and the culture of our civil society.
That's Paul Kelly making some important points in The Australian today.
As Paul notes, Victoria Police made the decision to charge Cardinal Pell - not the OPP. That's tremendously significant.
Here's the timeline in the Pell matter
- February 2016: Herald Sun reveals Victoria Police investigating Cardinal Pell
- July 2016: Victoria Police send brief of evidence regarding Cardinal Pell to Office of Public Prosecutions but it was returned with no recommendations.
- February 2017: Victoria Police hand second brief of evidence to Office of Public Prosecutions
- May 2017: OPP return brief on Cardinal Pell
It's significant that in May this year ABC journalist Louise Milligan's book on Pell was published. It receive widespread coverage in the ABC and Fairfax press.
Milligan interviewed two men, Lyndon Monument and Damian Dignan, who claimed they were sexually assaulted by Cardinal Pell, then a priest, at Ballarat's Eureka Pool in the late 1970's.
"One of the things that has helped George Pell and his defenders to bat off or gloss over the allegations of Monument and Dignan is the seeming ambiguity of the behaviour, depending on how it is cast".
"It's the notion that this was simply 'horseplay' or 'a bit of rough and tumble' and that Monument and Dignan, damaged men, had simply misinterpreted what was going on.
"The story of [the choirboys] has no such ambiguity. If these allegations are true, they point to utter, sinful, hypocrisy."
Milligan's book details the testimony of one alleged victim, a man now aged in his 30s, and the family of a second alleged victim, who died from a drug overdose in 2014.
According to the book, the mother of the second alleged victim suspected her son had been sexually abused and asked him at least twice before his death. He told her he had not been.
But after he died she asked her son's friend, the first alleged victim.
"I asked him if my son was a victim and he said, 'Yes'." The mother was told by the friend that Cardinal Pell allegedly abused both boys.
Milligan writes that the first man reported the allegations to Victoria Police's SANO Taskforce and the mother of the deceased man also gave a statement to investigators.
Victoria Police confirm Pell has been charged with "historical" offences. That suggests that the evidence against him is unlikely to be DNA or other forensic material from a crime scene examination. The evidence is apparently based on the statements of the persons who allege Pell assaulted them.
Cardinal Pell vigorously denies the allegations.
Pell's been interviewed by police. He presumably denied the allegations against him when police interviewed him. But despite the absence of a clear go-ahead from the Office of Public Prosecutions, Victoria Police have made the decision to charge Cardinal Pell and put him before the court.
Compare and contrast that with the treatment meted out to the complainant Kathy who alleged Bill Shorten raped her.
Kathy was and is emphatic in alleging Shorten raped her. Shorten denies the allegation.
Police put a brief of evidence to the OPP based on Kathy's allegations. It's analogous to the Pell matter - but compare and contrast the result.
Here's the ABC's report.
Senior Labor Party figure will not face criminal charges over alleged rape in 1980s
Thu 21 Aug 2014, 9:32am
A senior figure in the Labor Party will not face criminal charges over an alleged rape dating back to the 1980s.
Victorian police have confirmed that the allegation has been investigated but they will not be proceeding with criminal charges.
"Investigating police sought advice from the Office of Public Prosecutions, which advised there was no reasonable prospect of conviction," a statement from Victoria Police said.
"All parties have been notified that Victoria Police will not be proceeding with criminal charges."
The alleged victim, who posted the claims on a Facebook page late last year, said that the sexual assault took place at a Young Labor camp near Geelong in the 1980s.
At the time the allegation became public, lawyers for the man released a statement saying the claims were "unsubstantiated" and "absolutely without foundation".
Broadcaster Neil Mitchell also revealed then that his program "had contact with the woman raising the allegations, and she made it clear she wanted to speak to police".
THE HON BILL SHORTEN
LEADER OF THE OPPOSITION
MEMBER FOR MARIBYRNONG
***Please check against delivery***
Late last year I learned that a claim had been made about me, going back to when I was nineteen.
It was made on social media, when I was elected Opposition Leader.
I will not go into details, except to say that the allegation was untrue and abhorrent.
The allegation was made by someone I knew briefly at that time.
There is absolutely no basis for the claim.
The claim has now been thoroughly and rigorously investigated by police, as is entirely proper.
I fully cooperated to clear my name. And that is what I have done.
I freely answered all questions the police asked of me.
Now the police investigation has concluded, I can make this statement.
This has been deeply distressing for my family.
I am thankful for the love and support of Chloe, and the support of my staff and parliamentary colleagues.
Others who were aware of the investigation have acted with the utmost integrity by leaving the police to do their job.
The police have now concluded the investigation.
The decision speaks for itself.
It is over.
I have no intention of making any further comment.
Paul Kelly's observations about the justice system - particularly in Victoria - aren't confined to the Pell matter. There are serious questions for authorities to answer about decisions in the AWU scandal and other complaints against senior politicians.
Our institutions, our justice system and the culture of our civil society are - as Paul Kelly noted - being tested.
But it's not just in the Pell case - there's plenty more cause for concern and It's up to us to speak out about it.