As a Witness at George Pell's Trial, I Saw First-hand the Strength of His Victim

By Louise Milligan
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
August 26, 2019

PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell was a well-resourced defendant who has for years cultivated and been supported by the powerful. (AAP: David Crosling)

In the end, just as in the beginning, this was a case about two little boys.

Two 13-year-old choristers from humble backgrounds, who received scholarships to an expensive Catholic school because they could sing their little hearts out.

Two boys whose childhoods, a court has again found, were stolen from them in 1996 by a man who was supposed to represent all that was good in the world: the then Archbishop of Melbourne.

Neither chorister was in court this brisk Melbourne morning.

One succumbed in 2014 to the heroin addiction that overwhelmed him from the age of 14 the year after the event that changed their lives.

He was only 31 when he died.

The other choirboy remained silent about what George Pell did to them until his friend's death.

Then, four years ago, with private and resolute determination, he told his truth to Victoria Police.

On Wednesday, beamed to the world through a scratchy feed from a Supreme Court building several blocks away from where the boy was orally raped at St Patrick's Cathedral, Melbourne, two judges of the Victorian Court of Appeal agreed with a jury of 12 that this young man was a truth-teller.

That finding meant Cardinal George Pell's appeal was dismissed.

The world's third most-senior Catholic will return to prison.

PHOTO: George Pell arrived at the Supreme Court of Victoria in a prison van just before 8:30am. (AAP: Julian Smith)

'Someone who was telling the truth'

"Throughout his evidence, [the complainant, known only to the court as 'J'] came across as someone who was telling the truth," Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Chris Maxwell found in their majority judgment.

"He did not seek to embellish his evidence or tailor it in a manner favourable to the prosecution."

As the only journalist who has met J and other complainants against George Pell, and who wrote about these allegations in my book, Cardinal, The Rise and Fall of George Pell, I do not speak for J as he is fiercely private.

But I can comfortably say that their Honours' finding is not a surprise to me.

I have never had any reason to believe that J is not telling the truth.

Indeed, I have often said I would defy anyone who had met him to find any reason why this young man would invent this story and to go through what has been a four-year ordeal through the police investigation and a court case.

He released a statement on Wednesday through his lawyer, Dr Viv Waller, who acted pro bono for him during this process.

"The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I would not return from," J wrote.

"The justice machine rolls on, with all of its processes and punditry, almost forgetting about the people at the heart of the matter."

It was a characteristically measured statement, too, with J saying he appreciated that the criminal process had afforded Pell "every opportunity to challenge the charges and every opportunity to be heard".

"I am glad he has had the best legal representation that money can buy. There are lots of checks and balances in the criminal justice system."

The trauma can't be underestimated

It's the ultimate David and Goliath tale of a young man who never sought fame, just wanted justice, against a well-resourced defendant who has for years cultivated and been supported by the powerful.

Imagine taking on Cardinal George Pell: the third most senior person in the worldwide Catholic Church. A man supported by two former prime ministers who didn't spend a minute in court, didn't hear or read a word of your evidence and yet nonetheless, by implication, branded you a liar.








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