Regardless of whether the recently convicted George Pell, is innocent or guilty, there is a precedent in the latest Pell case (verdict) that should send a shudder along the spine of every citizen in Australia.
Greg Craven, lawyer and columnist for The Australian, explains why.
Craven asks whether social media and the MSM had an influence on the juror’s view of Pell. His question is a good one. Is bias in media reporting, and among some officials, responsible for Pell having been convicted of the crime, in the minds of his jurors, before he was even brought to trial?
The police and media should be impartial, reporting cases fairly…Media and police never combine to form a pro-conviction cheer squad. This is where the Pell case has gone terribly wrong. Impartial judge and jury accepted, parts of the media – notably the ABC and fromer Fairfax journalists – have spent years attempting to ensure Pell is the most odious figure in Australia.
They seemed to want him in the dock as an ogre, not a defendant. Worse, elements of Victoria police, including Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton co-operated in this. Ashton’s repeated announcements of impending charges and references to “victims” rather than “alleged victims” were matched only by the coincidences in timing between police pronouncements and favoured media exclusives…this include a book from Melbourne University Press, called Cardinal: The Rise & Fall of George Pell, was printed and published before the gag order made it into the public.
This reputational blackening works in two ways. First, at the human level, is there any Australian who does not now associate the word “Pell” with “child abuse”? Second, is there any public official in Australia who does not understand that any action, no matter how appropriate, that might tend towards Pell’s acquittal, will meet swift, public retribution?
This is not the story about whether a jury got it right or wrong, or about whether a justice is seen to prevail. It’s a story about whether a jury was ever given a fair chance to make a decision, and whether our justice system can be heard above the media mob. (Excerpt from The Australian, 27th February 2019, p.7 )
I’m not Roman Catholic, and I consider child abuse, institutional or otherwise, to be as bad as abortion. Child abuse doesn’t just involve sexual sin, it’s also an abuse of power.
However, Craven’s question is important.
In light of Kavanaugh, Trump, Covington School boys etc.; We should all be asking, has activist journalism, and social media, hindered due process and the right to a fair trial?
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