This week Australians all took a deep breath in unison and read the news no one was prepared to see, a decision that is more fitting for a Hollywood drama then for real life, a decision that has left survivors reeling and parents holding their children a bit tighter than usual.
The seven judges of the high court have handed down what might be one of the most controversial decisions Australia has ever witnessed. Their decision, convicted and jailed child molester George Pell is to be released and all convictions dismissed, finishing off a series of events that started fifty years ago.
It is every parent’s worst nightmare, a predator walking the streets ready to prey on your child, made even worse by the fact that the alleged perpetrator is a Cardinal, a high-ranking priest in the Catholic Church, elected by the Pope himself.
The Cardinal in question is the soon to be infamous Cardinal George Pell, aged 78, who was accused of molesting two choir boys in 1996 whilst he was appointed as Archbishop of Melbourne.
In 2015 the surviving choir boy broke his silence, letting go of the secret he had carried for nearly two decades. One can only imagine the weight this man had carried into adulthood, scared of judgement and sharing his secret with the world, all to not be believed.
Three years later in December of 2018 Pell, who had pled not guilty, was found to be guilty of the accusations against him in the Melbourne case of the choir boys, charged with five sex abuse convictions in total.
Since then the Cardinal’s lawyers have faced the high court, arguing that the court failed to adequately take evidence supporting Pell’s innocence into consideration.
On April 7th 2020, after spending just a mere 400 days in prison, Pell has been set free, just in time to spend Easter in the free world.
Amongst the turmoil the world is facing at the moment, yesterday’s news from the high court has left Australia in shock, with the question on everybody lips the same; how?
If a high-profile case can have the ending that Pell’s has, then what chance do the everyday equivalents have. The George Pell’s who hide in our local shadows, in our schools, our churches, our family trees.
The #Metoo movement has given survivors of sexual assault worldwide a group consciousness, hope that if we just stand up we must be believed, that the reason why these monsters have been allowed to walk our streets is a mistake, that if their crimes had been reported they would be locked away.The man who killed Sunshine coast boy Daniel Morcombe in 2003, Brett Peter Cowan, had viciously assaulted seven year old boy Timothy Nicholls in 1987. Cowan served a little over half of his sentence of two years for the brutal rape of Timothy, before being released and eventually finding his way to that bus stop next to Daniel in 2003.
Daniel’s parents must stare at their ceiling at night wondering what if, what if he had served his full sentence, what if he had been sentenced to life, what if, what if, what if.
The pain of all survivors, of the choir boy, Timothy Nicholls, of all people who have been affected by child abuse, who have been brave enough to speak up, for their abuser to be able to walk free is a pain that is immeasurable, leaving a community once hopeful for change and justice, vulnerable and disappointed.
If we didn’t believe the choir boy, then who has a chance?