A typically level-headed analysis by Barney Zwartz in the SMH shows that the story isn’t over for Cardinal Pell, despite the recent overturning by Australia’s High Court of his conviction for child sexual abuse. Further civil cases involving Pell are possible.

The case raises questions, however, about our legal system – at least for one largely naïve about how it’s all supposed to work. For example, as Zwartz notes:

No fair-minded person would want Pell in jail if he didn’t commit the crime — or, as the court found, there is reasonable doubt. But it is hard to claim he has faced an injustice, at least in the technical sense that he was granted every opportunity the legal system provides, including some of the finest barristers and appeals right up to the High Court — a privilege not granted to many.

Our legal system is apparently aiming to determine truth in matters of conflict. Yet each side tries to use skillful lawyers to present their best case, and right there is a well-known injustice: the wealthy have much greater access to those skills.

Just as bad, however, is the fact that there seems to be no obligation for either side to present the complete truth. Indeed, while witnesses are supposed to tell “the whole truth”, they’re often not given the chance, because barristers most definitely do not want to cover ground that could be unfavourable to their client, even though it may be true and helpful to giving a fuller picture of the situation.

I’ll happily stand corrected if any of this is wrong. Is an adversarial system of justice the best Australia can do?


Photo by Bill Oxford on Unsplash