SIR – The recent conviction of Cardinal George Pell, in Australia, in a sexual assault case relating to two 13-year-old choir boys in late 1990s, is as worrying, as it is astonishing.
To begin with, it would have been physically impossible for the offence to have been committed in the manner described by the accuser.
In addition, the assault is said to have happened in a semi-public area, but with no witnesses. Those working in that area have testified that nothing of the sort occurred.
Unfortunately, the other choir boy’s life, spun out of control and he died from a heroin overdose in 2014. However, his mother says that she asked him if he had ever been abused and he answered ‘no’.
Unusually, the police opened an investigation into Cardinal Pell – a thoroughly outspoken, yet reforming, and go-ahead prelate – without any accusation having been made against him. Twelve accusations were brought forward, however all but this one, were considered to be too implausible to proceed with.
We are all too aware that miscarriages of justice were meted out to Irishmen in Britain during ‘the troubles’, and that there have been numerous convictions of innocent Afro-Americans, in the USA.
In the absence of corroborating evidence, i.e. where the accuser’s word against the defendant's word, is considered sufficient to lead to a conviction 'beyond reasonable doubt,' any related 'trial by media' causing public hysteria – as happened in the Cardinal Pell case – must surely prejudice any parallel ‘trial by jury.’