Cardinal Pell convictions quashed

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PELL v THE QUEEN [2020] HCA 12

Today, the High Court granted special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria and unanimously allowed the appeal. The High Court found that the  jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

The applicant sought leave to appeal against his convictions before the Court of Appeal. On 21 August 2019 the Court of Appeal granted leave on a single ground, which contended that the verdicts were unreasonable or could not be supported by the evidence, and dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal viewed video-recordings of a number of witnesses’ testimony, including that of the complainant. The majority, Ferguson CJ and Maxwell P, assessed the complainant to be a compelling witness. Their Honours went on to consider the evidence of a number of “opportunity witnesses”, who had described the movements of the applicant and others following the conclusion of Sunday solemn Mass in a way that was inconsistent with the complainant’s account. Their Honours found that no witness could say with certainty that these routines and practices were never departed from and concluded that the jury had not been compelled to entertain a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt. Weinberg JA dissented, concluding that, by reason of the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses, the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have had a reasonable doubt.

On 17 September 2019, the applicant applied to the High Court for special leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal’s decision on two grounds. On 13 November 2019, Gordon and Edelman JJ referred the application for special leave to a Full Court of the High Court for argument as on an appeal. The application was heard by the High Court on 11 and 12 March 2020. The High Court considered that, while the Court of Appeal majority assessed the evidence of the opportunity witnesses as leaving open the possibility that the complainant’s account was correct, their Honours’ analysis failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable  possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt. The unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses was

inconsistent with the complainant’s account, and described: (i) the applicant’s practice of greeting congregants on or near the Cathedral steps after Sunday solemn Mass; (ii) the established and historical Catholic church practice that required that the applicant, as an archbishop, always be accompanied when robed in the Cathedral; and (iii) the continuous traffic in and out of the priests’ sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended Sunday solemn Mass. The Court held that, on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the  jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents. With respect to each of the applicant’s co  M v The Queen  (1994) 181 CLR 487 at 494, “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
  • This statement is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the High Court or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons.

 

Teina Pora convictions quashed

The privy council has quashed the Tenia Pora convictions. This isn’t a surprise, the more that came out the more of a travesty of justice it looked.

Teina Pora’s convictions quashed but no decision on a third trial

Teina Pora’s convictions for the rape and murder of Aucklander Susan Burdett 23 years ago have been quashed by the Privy Council in London.

In delivering the judgement tonight, Lord Kerr said the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council has concluded “there was a risk of a miscarriage of justice if Mr Pora’s convictions were allowed to stand”.

The Privy Council noted in its formal decision the now famous confessions Pora made to police.

It found: “The combination of Pora’s frequently contradictory and often implausible confessions and the recent diagnosis of his FASD [fetal alcohol spectrum disorder] leads to only one possible conclusion and that is that reliance on his confessions gives rise to a risk of a miscarriage of justice. On that account, his convictions must be quashed.”

The board is seeking submissions within four weeks on the issue of whether there ought to be a third trial for the 39-year-old.

Will the Crown ever admit the stuffed this case up? Now would be a good time.

Teina Pora’s lawyer: He’s probably the happiest man in the country tonight

Teina Pora’s lawyer says he is “absolutely delighted, as is Teina and as are his supporters” following the Privy Council’s decision.

The Privy Council in London tonight quashed Pora’s convictions for the murder and rape of Susan Burdett in south Auckland in 1992.

Pora’s lawyer Jonathan Krebs says his client was “initially speechless” when he learned he was now a free man and would no longer be subjected to “very strict parole conditions”.

“But as it sank in he’s probably the happiest man in the country tonight.

It’s good to see he’s finally got something to be happy about. And his lawyer…

He said the Privy Council had not automatically ordered a retrial, which he says usually happens in cases where a conviction is quashed on appeal.

“What they have done instead is called for submissions from the lawyers as to whether there should be a retrial and over the next four weeks we as a team will be working on those submissions and naturally our argument will be that there should be no retrial.”

It’s not over yet and it’s hard to see how Pora can have a normalish life of freedom, but I hope compensation from the Crown is sought.