Victorian government clears release of Pell royal commission findings

By Melissa Davey
April 27, 2020

Redacted versions of the royal commission’s reports into the Catholic church’s handling of child abuse allegations were released in December 2017.

Victorian attorney general advises her federal counterpart that blacked-out sections of two reports can be released

Unpublished findings about Cardinal George Pell’s handling of child sexual abuse complaints have been cleared for release by the Victorian government.

Attorney general Jill Hennessy has advised her federal counterpart, Christian Porter, that blacked-out sections of two reports from the institutional child abuse royal commission can be released, after the high court overturned the cardinal’s convictions for child sexual abuse earlier this month.

“The government is not aware of any impediments to the un-redacted versions of these reports being tabled and published at this time,” the government said in a statement on Monday.

However she added, “The removal of redactions is entirely a matter for the royal commission into institutional responses into child sexual abuse”.

The decision to release the findings rests with Porter given the royal commission completed its work and released its final report in December 2o17.

The royal commission’s final report contains dozens of redacted pages about the Catholic church and Pell’s handling of child abuse allegations in the Melbourne archdiocese and Ballarat diocese. This was because of the legal action against Pell underway at the time, with the report published just months after Pell was charged with child sexual offences. The findings remained redacted throughout his criminal trials and subsequent appeals because of fears they could prejudice a jury. Since Pell won his appeal before the high court in April there has been pressure on the government to make the commission’s findings regarding Pell public.

A spokesman for Porter’s office previously said the report would only be released once Victorian law enforcement and prosecution agencies said the report would not jeopardise any future investigations or prosecutions.

“Once all relevant agencies formally confirm in response to written requests that the redactions are no longer necessary, arrangements will be made for public release,” he said.

Porter subsequently wrote to Hennessy on 14 April asking if there was any reason the redacted report should not be released, prompting her response. However, Guardian Australia understands Porter requires no formal sign-off to release the report.

On Tuesday morning Porter said after receiving Hennessy’s response, “I have sought final advice from my department on the release of the documents and will proceed upon receipt of that advice which I expect as soon as possible”.

Victoria’s office of public prosecutions told Guardian Australia “We are not able to comment nor provide background on this”.

The royal commission’s findings will not relate to abuse allegations against Pell himself, but rather his knowledge of complaints against pedophile priests during his time in Ballarat and Melbourne, including Gerald Ridsdale.

Pell, a former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop, was a priest in Ballarat and auxiliary bishop in Melbourne at the time.


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