The High Court of Australia’s unanimous decision to overturn George Pell’s convictions of historic child sexual abuse has left the father of the deceased choirboy in utter disbelief.
Lisa Flynn, National Practice Leader at Shine Lawyers, which represents the man in a separate civil lawsuit against the Catholic Church, said the firm’s client is gutted by the outcome.
“Our client is currently in shock. He is struggling to comprehend the decision by the High Court of Australia. He says he no longer has faith in our country’s criminal justice system,” Ms Flynn said.
“He is furious the man he believes is responsible for sexually abusing his son was convicted by a unanimous jury only to have that decision overturned today allowing George Pell to walk free from jail.
“Our client says he is heartbroken for the surviving victim who stuck his neck out by coming forward to tell his story but was ultimately let down by a legal process that forced him to relive his pain and trauma for no benefit.
“Our client says this man, who the jury believed, is an upstanding citizen who had nothing to gain from speaking out other than to protect other children from the pain and suffering he has to live with on a daily basis.
“He has no doubt George Pell sexually abused his son and that his son’s sudden turmoil was a direct result of the abuse he suffered inside Melbourne’s Catholic Cathedral at the hands of George Pell.”
Ms Flynn said the High Court’s decision will have the unfortunate consequence of reinforcing the views of those who believe the criminal justice system is ineffective in dealing with crimes of sexual violence, including child sexual abuse.
“This is not the message we need to be sending to vulnerable survivors of sexual abuse,” she said.
“It suggests that even if survivors of child sexual abuse report their abuse, convince police to lay charges, convince the prosecution to pursue those charges, convince a jury to convict the accused, convince a Court of Appeal to uphold the jury’s decision, they can still be denied justice by the country’s highest court.
“To the hundreds of thousands of survivors and victims of child sexual abuse, I encourage you to stay strong in your fight for justice and your desire to make this world a safer place for our children.
“Do not let this decision stop you from speaking your truth. Instead, use today’s decision to free George Pell to ignite your fire and take on your abuser.”
While many will feel let down by the criminal justice system, Ms Flynn said victims also have the option of pursuing civil lawsuits.
“We will continue to pursue a civil claim on behalf of our client despite the High Court’s ruling today. He has suffered immensely and maintains George Pell was responsible for his son’s sudden downward spiral after he abused his son as a young choirboy,” she said.
“A civil case isn’t treated the same as a criminal case in that there are different standards of proof, and one is not reliant on the other.
“Our civil case is focussed on the devastating impact this has had on our client’s life. The standard of proof is on the balance of probabilities – that is whether it is more probable than not the abuse occurred and caused our client to suffer injury.”