George Pell's Lawyers Score Small Victory at Royal Commission
By Bianca Hall
April 13, 2016
Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell have sought to discredit a witness at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse on Wednesday, persuading Justice Peter McClellan to publicly release a document they say calls into question the testimony of a man whose brother was allegedly abused by disgraced Ballarat Christian Brother Edward Dowlan.
Cardinal Pell's lawyer Sam Duggan also claimed the man, known only as BWF, was an unreliable witness.
But Justice McClellan said he was only releasing the document - a judge's courtroom remarks sentencing BWF for an unrelated crime years later - in the interests of openness and transparency.
|Cardinal George Pell leaves the Quirinale Hotel after meeting victims of sex abuse in March. Photo: Riccardo De Luca|
BWF clashed with Mr Duggan at an earlier hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in December, when he told the commission he had told church authorities in 1973 his younger brother BWG was brutally bashed and molested by disgraced brother Edward Dowlan.
BWF said he had discovered that his brother had been sent to a doctor because an attack from Dowlan had left his legs and buttocks severely bruised. He assumed at the time that he had also been sexually assaulted because Dowlan's abusive behaviour was then common knowledge among students.
Dowlan is currently serving a minimum of three years in jail for abusing 20 young boys.
BWF told the December hearing he had told Cardinal Pell about the abuse at St Patrick's Cathedral in Ballarat.
"I just blurted out to Pell that Brother Dowlan had beaten and molested [his brother] BWG and demanded to know what Pell going to do about it," BWF told the hearing.
"Pell became angry and yelled at me 'young man, how dare you knock on this door and make demands'."
But Mr Duggan suggested BWF was lying, and told him: "Father Pell was not living in the presbytery on Sturt and Dawson Street in 1973 and had no reason to be there."
BWF's evidence followed testimony from other survivors who told the commission that Cardinal Pell had dismissed their reports of clergy abuse.
On Wednesday, Mr Duggan made a successful application to the Royal Commission to have a suppression order lifted on a judge's sentencing remarks in a criminal case involving BWF.
"The principle of open justice would start from the principle that there should be no suppression. There is no reason to make the suppression order under Sec 6D because the document...does not go anywhere near risking identification of BWF," he said.
"The relevance of the document itself is a slightly different issue...If this was a jury trial, I might be minded to make an application that the trial judge should give a warning that the testimony of BWF is unreliable, so in those circumstances we say it is relevant."
The hearing was told the document - which has been heavily redacted - had already been tendered to the Royal Commission. Its public release could not identify BWF.
Justice McClellan said he did not accept the argument that releasing the document publicly would deter other victims from coming forward, as the sentencing remarks did not identify BWF. He said the relevance of the sentencing remarks "may not be of great significance", and the only matter before him was openness and transparency, given the documents had already been tendered with the Royal Commission.
The document will be released later on Wednesday.
Earlier, the hearing was told that no further action would be taken in relation to former Ballarat Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, the so-called "keeper of secrets", who died earlier this month after a lengthy battle with colon cancer.
Bishop Mulkearns was due to reappear before the Royal Commission. In February he told the Commission he was "terribly sorry" for moving paedophile priests around Victorian parishes for decades, enabling countless children to be sexually assaulted by clergy and teachers.
The Commission was also told former priest psychologist at Ballarat Dan Torpy had raised as early as 1980 that there had been "whispers" about the predatory behaviour of paedophile priest Father Gerald Ridsdale at Edenhope, in the Victorian Wimmera region.
Lawyer Michael Fitzgerald said Mr Torpy had also written to Bishop Mulkearns to tell him about "whispers of a nasty situation at Edenhope".
After leaving Edenhope, Mr Fitzgerald said, Father Ridsdale was transferred to the National Pastoral Institute at Gardenvale.
There, Father Ridsdale was introduced to Mr Fitzgerald's client Paul Levey, and later abused him.
The hearing continues.