The operation of the Victorian justice system should face a full review in the wake of the botched proceedings against Cardinal George Pell, according to the state’s Opposition. Source: The Australian.
By John Ferguson, The Australian
Coalition legal affairs spokesman Edward O’Donohue said he had been inundated with complaints from Cardinal Pell supporters, opponents, victim groups and people shocked at the “unedifying ordeal”.
He said while the unanimous High Court decision was “clearly an embarrassment” for the majority on the Victorian Court of Appeal, he was not reflecting on it or decisions by the other courts. But he was concerned about key aspects of Cardinal Pell’s case and whether the justice system in Victoria had done its job.
This included the decision by police to advertise for, and encourage, complainants to come forward.
Mr O’Donohue said the decision to proceed with the investigation and lay charges without speaking to or taking statements from all potential witnesses also was a problem.
He also questioned why Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC had “ignored” Cardinal Pell’s application for discontinuance to abandon the criminal proceedings, given the seven-member High Court bench’s subsequent decision.
“There are clearly many questions that need to be answered about the decisions made throughout this process,” he said in a letter to Victorian Attorney-General Jill Hennessy.
“And it is critical for our democracy and the rule of law that Victorians have faith in the transparency and operations of the Victorian justice system.
“While there has been enormous publicity, debate and analysis of the Pell matter, most criminal proceedings do not receive the same level of public interest and scrutiny, nor do the parties have the resources required to take their matter to the High Court.
“Therefore, the broader question from this matter is this: are the reported/potential failures that have occurred in Pell symptomatic of a system that at times is failing both defendants and complainants?”
Ms Hennessy said the independence of the courts was fundamental to the integrity of the justice system and it would not be appropriate to undermine that independence.