“Faith in the courts has to be beyond reasonable doubt”


The public can be confident in the administration of justice in Victoria

Melbourne, 16 April 2020 – In a joint letter published in the Herald Sun this morning, Wendy Harris QC, President of The Victorian Bar and Sam Pandya, President of the Law Institute of Victoria, stated that, “While public comment on the outcome of the High Court decision on the Pell appeal is fair and appropriate, it is disappointing and not constructive when it becomes personal.

“The High Court decision, upholding the appeal by Cardinal George Pell’s lawyers over his conviction for child sexual abuse, was an example of the judicial system, both in Victoria and in our High Court, operating properly and effectively.

“Jeff Kennett’s article “Our faith in the courts has to be beyond doubt” personalises different decisions by the Court of Appeal and the High Court.

“This attack on the integrity and fitness for office of our Supreme Court Chief Justice, Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President, Chris Maxwell, is unfair and risks undermining public confidence in the court system.

“Cardinal Pell was committed for trial after a hearing in the Magistrates’ Court.  He was convicted by a jury of 12 citizens charged with doing their best to arrive at the correct verdict.  Their decision was upheld by the Court of Appeal.  The High Court disagreed with the outcome and overturned the verdict. This is a reflection of the proper functioning of the checks and balances which exist in our justice system.

“Reasonable minds can always disagree. Disagreement between courts, and individual judges, happens routinely. That does not imply that there is something “wrong” with the Victorian justice system, or that our two most senior judges are unfit for office.

“Differences of views between courts and judges has, over centuries, been critical in shaping our common law and it is an important part of a healthy justice system. In many, many cases, the High Court agrees with the decision of the appellate court. In some cases, including this one, it didn’t.”

Media Enquiries: 

Elizabeth Gray on +61 401 561 554 or by email to elizabeth.gray@vicbar.com.au

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