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Pell decision upheld, providing hope and justice for all survivors

Written by:
Lisa Flynn
National Practice Leader - Shine Group

Today victims of child sexual abuse around the world waited with bated breath as one of the most significant legal decisions in recent history was handed down. The Court of Appeal has made the correct decision by upholding the jury’s verdict which saw disgraced cardinal George Pell convicted of child sexual abuse.

When Pell was sent to jail it showed survivors of sexual abuse that all people have to answer to the law. It offered hope. It showed that people leading big institutions could be overpowered by our legal system. Paedophiles, despite their profile, would be punished.

For the living survivor of Pell’s abuse, his family and the family of Pell’s deceased victim, George Pell being sent to jail offered more than hope…. it was justice.

It has been an extremely tough journey for George Pell’s living survivor after what he has been through. This courageous man has endured two trials. He had to tell his story of sexual abuse in a court room and be cross–examined for hours and hours by the country’s top barristers. They repeatedly put to him that he was lying, that he was making it up, that he was mistaken, that it couldn’t have happened.

These are all accusations that survivors of abuse hear too often, yet this man had to endure scrutiny on a completely different level. The whole world watched on and weighed in on what happened to him as a choirboy that day after mass. Everyone from the comfort of their lounge-chairs, radio studios, or at their keyboard had an opinion, despite not having lived through it and not hearing all of the evidence.

The jury of 12 men and women, a cornerstone of our legal system, who did hear all of the evidence believed him and decided that George Pell was guilty of child sex abuse beyond reasonable doubt. The Court of Appeal today agreed that our community representatives got it right, and this sends a powerful message to all survivors of sexual abuse: you are finally being heard.

My client, the deceased victim’s father, says that the bravery this man showed led to his son finally having a voice. My client has no doubt that his late son, who turned to drugs to numb the pain Pell caused him, has been helping his school friend from up above. Cheering him on every step of the way in his fight to have George Pell held responsible for stealing their innocence.

No, my client’s son didn’t speak about the abuse he suffered. But this is not uncommon – many survivors are often prevented from speaking out due to being riddled with fear and shame. It’s no secret that the average time it takes for victims of child sexual abuse to come forward is over 25 years.

We can only hope that this drawn out process is over once and for all and that the case does not now end up in the High Court of Australia.

Written by Lisa Flynn. Last modified: October 16, 2019.

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