I was at my desk yesterday morning (at home of course) working, when a newsflash popped up. The High Court of Australia quashed the conviction of George Pell. He is innocent of the charges against him. A couple of hours later, footage of a small and modest convoy were seen to leave the prison complex at Barwon. The image of George Pell was clearly visible in the second vehicle, a black small SUV. He was seated behind the front passenger seat. Finally, after 404 days, his wrongful conviction has been quashed.
When he was first convicted, I read parts of the judgment and wondered how this man could have been convicted given the evidence. I expected his legal team to appeal and win.
At the Victorian Court of Appeal, I could not believe his appeal was not allowed and they affirmed his conviction. I read the whole judgment. I was totally convinced, when I read the dissenting judgment of Justice Weinberg, that George Pell should have had his conviction quashed and declared innocent. I freely shared my thoughts with my team maters, including my manager and boss, the Group General Counsel of my employer. I wasn’t sure how they took it but I struggle to understand how a lawyer – any lawyer – would read the judgments and not think likewise.
So when the High Court finally decided, unanimously in a full bench (i.e., a 7-0 decision), to quash the conviction, I was relieved. I was relieved an innocent man is finally – after 404 days in prison – freed. I was relieved that in Australia, the law seems to have been upheld and the legal system has its integrity restored. For Victoria however, I hope something is done to avoid such outcomes in future cases. In an article by Paul Kelly in The Australian this morning, he made these points:
- Vic Police – “Get Pell” agenda and failed in its investigation duties
- Vic DPP – dubious decision to charge Pell
- Vic Court of Appeal – failed to review evidence
- ABC – prejudiced, biased and relentless victimization of Pell
I could only nod in agreement as I read it. I hope some day, persons in those institutions apologise to George Pell for the wrongs inflicted on him.