I am Melissa Davey, Melbourne Bureau Chief of Guardian Australia and one of a few journalists worldwide who sat through the entirety of the trial of Cardinal George Pell, including the committal hearing, mistrial and retrial. I also covered his evidence before Australia's child sexual abuse royal commission in 2016 live for four days straight. I have been covering issues like child sexual abuse, family violence and royal commissions for several years now, and the podcast I made on the child abuse royal commission with my colleagues Miles Martignoni and David Marr, 'The Reckoning', won two New York Festival awards. We've have now made 'The Reckoning Part 2' about the Pell case. We'll make the final episode after the appeal.

​Since the suppression order lifted on the Pell trials and my stories were published, I have been overwhelmed by the level of interest in the case, especially questions around the court process and the facts. I think it's important for journalists to make this court process as transparent and comprehensible as possible, so here I am to answer any of your questions. There is a huge appetite for dispassionate, clear reporting on this somewhat complicated story, and I've found the engagement from readers so interesting. As many of you will be aware there has been a significant backlash to the conviction led by Catholic news websites worldwide and some of the conservative press here in Australia. Let's talk about that too.

​Yesterday, he was sentenced to 6 years prison with a non-parole period of 3 years 8 months.

​Remember, this is a traumatic topic for many. Let's keep it kind, and while support services differ by country, here is a good place to start: https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/contact

​I'll be answering your questions for an hour or two from 7am Thursday 14 March AEDT, which is 4pm Wednesday 13 March EDT. I'm in an airport with dodgy wifi so let's see how this goes. AMA and thanks so much in advance for your interest!

​Proof: https://imgur.com/a/eoXIUDB and https://twitter.com/MelissaLDavey

​UPDATE: I'm about to be called over the airport intercom for being late for my flight so will be wrapping up shortly. Please ask any questions i didn't get to over at my Twitter account. I'll do my best.

In the meantime, if you like the work we do at Guardian Australia you might consider supporting us, either with membership or a one-off donation of an amount of your choice https://membership.theguardian.com/au/supporter . But thank you so much for all the questions, it's been great.

​Please also see this Q&A I wrote: https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/mar/02/cardinal-george-pells-conviction-the-questions-that-remain

​UPDATE 2: That's it from me, thanks again. Hope to see you over at Twitter for any questions that remain. Please take care of yourself if this AMA has been distressing. There are support services out there.

Comments: 685 • Responses: 51  • Date: 

ShootingPains1063 karma

Hi Melissa, a nurse once told me about a time when she was caring for a very old nun who was on her deathbed. They got to talking and the nun told her that when the local bishop transferred a kiddy-fiddler priest to another parish/overseas, the local convent would write to the convent at the priest’s destination alerting them about the new priest. Apparently there are archives of letters going back a century. In the years since I was told that I’ve often thought that those letters would be a gold mine. Do you know if they’ve ever been revealed?

MelissaDavey1002 karma

It's breathtaking isn't it? The way that the reaction to these pedophiles was to move them on, hide them, then when caught, move them again.

I don't know whether the letters you are talking about exist or have been revealed because i don't know what parish you're referring to. But here in Australia, we have strong evidence including documents and testimony that this practice occurred.

The most obvious example is Gerald Ridsdale. Ridsdale, 84, has already served 24 years in a Victorian prison after being jailed in 1994 for sexually abusing nine boys. While he was given a sentence of 12 months at the time, dozens of other victims have since come forward. By 2006 he had pleaded guilty to abusing 54 children over four separate court cases. These additional charges meant he would not be eligible for parole until April 2019.

However, a fifth batch of 23 additional charges were brought against Ridsdale, which he plead guilty to earlier in 2017, bringing his number of victims to 65. There are thought to be hundreds of Ridsdale victims.

How'd he get away with it? They moved him from parish to parish.

Guess who he lived with in Ballarat? Pell, who was then a parish priest.

Pell was involved in the decision to move Ridsdale between parishes once the abuse came to light, including parishes in Mildura, Swan Hill, Warrnambool, Apollo Bay, Ballarat and Mortlake. Pell has always denied any knowledge of children being abused in Ballarat.

And who was by Ridsdale's side accompanying him to court as a support person when he first went to court?


Ridsdale is one of hundreds of pedophiles in the church who were moved around instead of punished by the law. It's sickening. This is why I'm baffled we have no successful concealment convictions in Australia. Concealing child abuse in Australia is a crime.

VeganJoy273 karma

Jfc, and that was just 1 guy...

MelissaDavey357 karma

Exactly. He was one of hundreds.

VeganJoy427 karma

Just wanted to say, I’ve never heard of you before seeing this AMA, but you seem like a good person who wants to do the right thing. In this time of exploitative media companies being more interested in money than accurate news, I appreciate journalists like you who work to bring the truth to light. Thank you for what you do :)

MelissaDavey301 karma

Don’t really have any words... thank you

eyeshuddertothink768 karma

I was a victim of CSA as a part of the Catholic Church. I attended catholic school until 7th grade, reporting to my parents the abuse I was enduring. My mother vehemently told me I was a liar, to the point where I split on what was occurring and began believing that this was not happening to me. They didn’t pull me out until I attempted suicide and the SCHOOL had a meeting to explain that I was not wanted there.

I continued to see this man through out my life, as my parents remained adamant friends with him, inviting him to our home on many occasions. It was important on both the churches end and my parents end to keep this under wraps. I’m not sure if it was the spell of the church and the social pull that kept them so willing to jump to it’s defense. Probably both.

I married at a very young age in order to get out of their home. To my surprise, this man was invited to our wedding. Even given platform for a speech and blessings.

I want to thank you for your support in being a part of bringing these issues to light.

Have you seen, throughout this case, other instances of the children’s parents or family being unsupportive of them coming forward? I’ve always wondered how much of the secrecy was made worse by their own parent’s brainwashing. Are there those who have remained faithful throughout the process?

MelissaDavey136 karma

I’m sorry for not replying to your post sooner. I didn’t want to rush it.

And I’m so sorry for everything that happened to you. Thanks for sharing it here because it helps dispel so many myths about abuse, and helps demonstrate why criminals are able to continue to abuse,

Sadly many parents did not and do not believe their children. Thankfully the idea that children should be seen and not heard is dying. But it still exists.

Parents were at times utterly unwilling to accept these holy figures, these men of god, who were often family friends and confidantes, could do such a thing. They believed the word of god’s men over their own children.

I’m not talking about this case by the way, the father of the dead victim believes his son. And the victim who gave evidence has thanked his family for their support.

sojayn539 karma

Go journos!

And the question is how much faith so you have in Australia's justice system?

Did you witness "interference" from political, religious or other groups and in your opinion has that changed or is changing?

Also, I was glad to hear a victim of pells say she was happy with the sentence - was that sentiment shared by the handful of journos who endured what I can only imagine was a difficult witnessing?

MelissaDavey559 karma

Oh my gosh what great questions. I'd have to write an essay to properly respond.

To your first question I can not make blanket statements about the Aus justice system which varies between states and territories. In terms of THIS trial? [and mistrial]. It was thorough. It was meticulous. And it was a privilege to watch. The legal arguments were fascinating and the careful approach of chief justice Peter Kidd was something to behold. I also really respect the prosecutors Mark Gibson and Angela Ellis and defence Robert Richter and Ruth Shann. This was a tough, high-profile trial. It was clear all the parties respected each other. Kidd was fair, tough when he needed to be, and gave excellent, considered directions to jurors.

​I think it's in appropriate for me to comment on sentencing, but my sources were saying about 5 years. It's certainly not being considered as lenient by those I've spoken to in legal circles so far. But of course many would have different opinions i haven't yet heard.

​In terms of political and religious interference; All I'll say is Greg Craven, Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine, John Howard, and Frank Brennan.

​Edit: hijacking my own top comment to say the latest episode of our podcast about Pell and the trial has just been released. Thanks to producer Miles Martignoni [who has been an incredible support to me as a colleague and friend throughout this] and David Marr, without whom this podcast would not be what it is. Love working with them both. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/audio/2019/mar/14/why-george-pell-was-sentenced-to-six-years-and-what-happens-next-the-reckoning-podcast?CMP=share_btn_tw This podcast takes in some of the conservative reaction [I think, I haven't listened to the final edit].

MelissaDavey56 karma

PS - please follow Miles here and send him some love, he’s the best but given he works behind the scenes does not get the recognition publicly he deserves https://mobile.twitter.com/milesage

vaena390 karma

How are you feeling, Melissa? Covering child sexual abuse cases can never be easy, especially given the amount of time you've dedicated to this. Have you received much push back for your reporting from pro-Pell/pro-Catholic supporters and if so, how do you deal with that?

MelissaDavey614 karma

At the moment? Tired! Not complaining but because there were SO FEW journalists in the whole case, I was doing international media interviews until 11pm last night. I was up at 4am this morning to catch a flight which I thought was at 1pm but nope, turns out it's at 9.30am. Whoops. My life admin is a mess, I keep thinking it's Wednesday when it's Thursday. Just the nature of covering a big ongoing story. I'm looking forward to a sleep. And routine. It’s important I do it though because the misinformation around this case is immense.

​You know, there will always be pushback. But I have been so pleasantly surprised by the genuine engagement. The amount of people that just really want to know the details and how the court works. People have been really supportive of the coverage and it has got me through. Even the questions in this AMA have been respectful. It helps a lot.

​What makes me maddest I guess is those who will never be open to changing their mind. They're not engaging with me out of a genuine interest in getting the facts. They just want me to say Pell has been made a scapegoat and it's all unfair. Sorry, that's not going to happen. I know too much.

AumsedToDeath165 karma

Thank you for doing this, despite what must have been an exhausting week.

MelissaDavey170 karma

Oh! Thank you! This is very kind, thanks for reading.

MelissaDavey69 karma

Also please give my colleague Miles some love! https://mobile.twitter.com/milesage

vaena27 karma

Thanks for your reply and for your time on this. I hope things ease up a little so you can get a full night's sleep!

And I'm glad to hear folks have been mostly supportive. I think the other ones... well, they're always going to be there with their fingers in their ears resisting anything that goes against their world view.

MelissaDavey8 karma

You know they’re struggling when they resort to rumour and personal attacks. It’s sad. Maybe to admit they are wrong means confronting something awful about themselves and their world they’re not ready to face. So they fight the victims and the reporters who were there. But really they’re fighting themselves.

CoffeeOverChocolate297 karma

Are there chances that people who helped him to cover up during all these years will be also prosecuted?

MelissaDavey550 karma

Concealment of child sexual abuse is a crime in Australia. However, former Adelaide Archbishop Philip Wilson is the only person ever convicted on this offence, and his conviction was overturned.

I find the lack on convictions for concealment incredible given what we now know about how pervasive and prevalent child sexual abuse was in Australia's institutions.

Australia's child sexual abuse royal commission published its findings from its massive five year inquiry into this institutional abuse in 2017. The chapter about Pell was redacted due to his trial. We've never seen the findings. We will after the appeal process in his trial. I'd be very interested to see what it says about what he knew, who around him knew, and if any concealment allegations have been referred to police.

bluepenonmydesk225 karma

As a Catholic I want to say thank you for your coverage of this trial. The Church and the courts must hold these men accountable for their crimes.

MelissaDavey407 karma

Thank you but the victim who came forward in this case is the one who held them to account and who we must thank. So brave. Look at the backlash. He must be struggling. The jurors would be too.

Elguapo1976145 karma

Pells counsel came out with the most amazing comments - such as “These are just Vanillia Sex Acts’ - how did you as a journalist and human, react to hearing this?

MelissaDavey307 karma

Having watched Richter throughout the trial my thoughts were 'This is classic Richter'. Look, let me make it clear I obviously do not agree with his comments and absolutely respect the outrage. They were outrageous comments. He apologised for them, In a way it’s useful for the public to see the kinds of comments victims are up against in court if they come forward. Richter is not the only barrister to make these kinds of comments in a court. This is slowly changing when it comes to abuse victims. Richter is from the old school where anything goes. I would hope he’s learned his lesson. He’s not an idiot though; he knew what he was saying.

But Richter is required to argue for a sentence based on the jury verdict, not based on Pell’s not guilty plea and maintenance of innocence. The case has been decided, so arguing Pell is innocent is useless in convincing the judge his client should get the lowest sentence possible. Richter had to accept the verdict in making his arguments. Now, he went too far in this and was rightfully pulled up by the chief judge. But defence barristers have a job. He was doing his.

Whether he did it well is up for debate. I will say he is widely respected in the courts, he is thorough and forensic, and manages to dig up info even police didn't find.

Elguapo197690 karma

Thanks for your insight. It’s interesting as an Australian how much this has affected everyone and finally the Catholic Church is finally being accountable for the crimes it has attempted to hide.

I truly appreciate the work you do and being a part of making the world a safer place to live in.

MelissaDavey151 karma

This means a lot thanks so much. Just doing my job. The victim is the only reason Pell has been held to account. None of this would be without him. Journalists must remember that. These stories aren’t about us.

Unfortunately though the misinformation has been so extreme I do feel an obligation to set the record straight as someone who was there. But that’s the only reason I’m doing this AMA.

Bertrum7 karma

he is widely respected in the courts

Wasn't he also a barrister for Australia's underworld and represented a lot of gangsters? Why did no one talk about how strange that was, especially when it comes to representing Pell? Why does the catholic church have connections like these if it wants to clean up its image?

MelissaDavey25 karma

He sure was. I speak about how strange it was towards the end of my piece here; Inside Pell’s Trial https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/audio/2019/feb/26/inside-george-pells-trial-the-room-was-deathly-silent-the-reckoning-podcast

Matelot67140 karma

Given Pell's standing within the Catholic Church, and what appears to be a 'he said - he said' element to the testimony, there is a perception that this conviction is a little unsafe, and that the real story is yet to play out in the Appeals Court. With the considerable financial resources available to Cardinal Pell through the church, the appeal will be of great interest. Will you cover the appeal as well, and do you believe Pell has grounds to appeal?

MelissaDavey161 karma

I’ll be there.

tdbristow117 karma

What is the psychological profile, why have there been so many Catholic priests involved in pedophilia?

MelissaDavey311 karma

What we learned from the child sexual abuse royal commission and many cases of child abuse is there is no set psychological profile. Abusers believed to be intelligent people of good character abuse. High profile people abuse, unknown people abuse. And it’s the institutions that created and harnessed the conditions that allowed them to do it and get away with it.

​As to why Catholic institutions, I could write a book about that. A significant proportion of the people who contacted the royal commission made allegations of child sexual abuse occurring in Catholic church institutions. As of June 2018, of all people who attended a private session with a commissioner, 37% reported abuse occurring in institutions managed by the Catholic church. More than 4000 people told the royal commission they were abused in religious institutions [not just Catholic].

​ It occurred so much in Catholic institutions because [this is simplifying]:

​ - The church operated under its own Canon law [and still does to an extent - the seal of confession] not civil law.

- They protected their own - failures to report alleged perpetrators to civil authorities; no discipline of perpetrators; pedophiles being moved from parish to parish and between dioceses instead of held to account and reported to police; sending alleged perpetrators for treatment but failing to remove them from ministry; and an utter failure to believe or respect children. ​

MelissaDavey286 karma

I just want to add because it’s important; abuse of kids is still occurring. In juvenile detention, in residential care, in foster homes, in families. We must do better for our kids.

ViolentNPCs61 karma

Not a doubt in my mind that those with a propensity for child abuse will seek employment that puts them in close contact with children.

The abuse of children is not specific to Catholicism, but the covering up of abuse in their own institutions can absolutely be laid at their feet.

MelissaDavey10 karma

Pedophiles in Australia hang around outside residential care units because they know there are vulnerable kids inside lacking safety and support.

Mariokartfever2 karma

How many children do you have?

MelissaDavey37 karma

Me? None of my own. I foster.

alphajuliusbravo37 karma


MelissaDavey132 karma

I’m in discussions with a couple of publishers, let’s leave it at that ;)

SweetFancyMoses199827 karma

Book title: Between Heaven and Pell.

MelissaDavey52 karma

A friend suggested ‘Highway to Pell’....... ..........

itsmeaningless5 karma

God that’s perfect

MelissaDavey6 karma


Bluelabel101 karma

Do you feel that the verdict was somewhat influenced by the actions of the church as a whole, and not just the incidents her was involved with?

MelissaDavey298 karma

Chief Judge Peter Kidd drilled it into jurors they were not to make Pell a scapegoat for the failures of the Catholic church. This was not a comment made in passing. It was said to them repeatedly.

The jurors were diverse. A church pastor, school teacher, mathematician, tram driver, chef etc. They did not make a quick verdict. They deliberated for almost four days after five weeks of evidence. They asked to review transcripts and video evidence. They were taken on a tour of the cathedral.

We also know that overall jurors do get it right and are capable of reasoned and rational verdicts.

Watching how well this trial was run and listening to the comprehensive directions given to jurors over a few days, I have belief in the jurors in this case.

wallitron66 karma

Thank you for giving your insights. Much has been made of the evidence hinging on the testimony of one victim. What evidence outside of the testimony of the victim was most compelling? Did the judge issue directions similar to a Murray direction, for example "Where there is only one witness asserting the commission of the crime, the evidence of that witness must be scrutinised with great care before a conclusion is arrived at that a verdict of guilty should be brought in."?

I know the court was closed during the victim testimony. Were you able to view the transcripts? Is it possible for journalists to make those transcripts public? If the victim's testimony was the most compelling evidence, I wonder why more about it hasn't been published?

I guess the root of my question is, have we reached a time in history where the compelling testimonial evidence from a single person, relating to a very serious crime is now more likely to lead to a conviction. This seems like a cosmic shift in how judicial systems work, because previously, the convictions for these types of crimes was extremely low. I'm positive that reasonable doubt often set monsters free, due to the lack of corroborating evidence. I suspect that this aspect is likely going to be the basis their appeal.

MelissaDavey36 karma

There were 14 witnesses called by prosecutors. But there was only one firsthand witness who gave evidence – the complainant. A large part of the prosecution’s case necessarily hinged on his testimony. This is not at all unusual in sexual abuse trials which are known as “word on word” cases.

It used to be that the law could not give weight to a single complainant’s evidence unless there was also a witnesses who said the victim told them about the abuse at the time, or unless there was evidence showing the victim was distressed immediately after the attack. This may be why Richter made so much of the fact that the victim did not speak out until he was an adult.

But courts have been frustrated by the lack of successful prosecutions against sex offenders and the unfairness to victims, so evidence requirements have changed. There is overwhelming evidence that shows many victims do not speak about their abuse until decades later. The vast majority of sexual assault cases now come down to the complainant’s word. To ensure trials are still fair, legislation now requires the judge to give jurors specific directions to balance any unfairness against the defence or complainant when it comes to word on word cases.

Jurors are commonly told they must consider that the defendant may be deprived of an alibi (if the complainant cannot specify the time of the alleged offence) and is at significant forensic disadvantage due to the passage of time. They are told it is up to prosecutors to prove guilt, not up to the defence to prove innocence. They are told it is not uncommon for child abuse victims to forget exact dates and peripheral details, or to report only as an adult. The jurors in the Pell case were given clear, repeated directions along these lines.

Uncorroborated evidence does not mean unsupported evidence. And it is not at all unusual for the corroborating evidence to be lacking in sex abuse trials.

maikit33382 karma

why is Andrew Bolt the way that he is?

MelissaDavey320 karma

Look what I have to get off my chest is this;

All the reasons Bolt says the abuse COULD NOT have occurred are the EXACT CONDITIONS in which abuse occurs. I'm not saying this out of sympathy or empathy for victims, which I have plenty. I'm saying this based on evidence and fact, including from a comprehensive five-year investigation into child abuse in Australia which interviewed criminals, suspects, victims and the foremost experts in forensics, child abuse and the church.

Let's look at Bolt's reasons why it couldn't have occurred and debunk them briefly one by one. Feel free to add to the debunk fest.

Bolt's ten reasons Pell can't be guilty:

  • One of the boys denied he had been abused

We know now that victims often deny the abuse for years. They are too young to comprehend, quite often, that what happened was sexual or to even have words for it. Often victims don't even realise the term for what happened was 'sexual abuse' until they have kids of their own and their child turns the same age they were when they were abused. Seeing someone so little and innocent that they want to protect is the trigger that brings it all up.

  • Other boy didn't speak of it for many years

Victims take an average of about two decades to disclose, evidence shows. The victim in Pell's case took about 18 years.

  • Attack meant to happen straight after mass when he would be outside speaking

Many witnesses in the trial said Pell did not always stay outside on the steps speaking to parishioners after mass. It was not customary for him to do so until later into his term as Archbishop.

  • It happened in the sacristy that is normally very busy, he would have known people were almost certain to walk in

We heard evidence in the trial sacristy's are not busy places. They are private, off-limits to public, and not always in use.

  • The boys slipped away but none of the other choristers who gave evidence noticed them leaving

As the prosecution said; why would the others have noticed? It would only be remarkable and memorable if someone DID notice the boys left the procession. We heard evidence the procession could become rowdy after mass, that boys would relax, talk, move out of line.

  • Pell normally followed everywhere and Charles Portelli testified he always followed Pell and declared the assault impossible

We heard evidence that there were times when Pell WAS on his own and was not always accompanied

  • The complainant said the door was open during this assault

Little children were raped within institutions with parents in the next room. They were raped in churches, behind alters, in private and public places.

  • Heavy robes could not be parted, evidence given at the trial

The jurors were given the robes. They were allowed to hold the robes and see for themselves whether they would have been too difficult to manoeuvre to expose a penis. The waist-tie around the robes was not a chastity belt.

  • Not a single witness noticed a thing in a busy cathedral

This is the nature of child sexual abuse. No-one sees it. Pedophiles don't have an audience.

  • No proven history or pattern of similar abuse, allegations but no proof.

This assumes all pedophiles must fit a standard profile. They don't.

maikit33344 karma

thats a really really valuable comment.

needs more attention than my humble little question tbh.

thank you.

MelissaDavey53 karma

Just made it then between flights sorry for my rushed responses and typos!

MelissaDavey254 karma


sexenheimer78 karma

The Catholic media reaction is understandable, but what do you think is driving the weird conspiracy-minded reaction from self-proclaimed secular conservative voices?

MelissaDavey111 karma

I would love to get your thoughts on this and the thoughts of other readers. It's a great question. Culture wars. People making bold statements and feeling a need to stick to them to avoid embarrassment. Power and powerful relationships. The exclusive club of old conservative rich white men.

arcobelina72 karma

Hi Melissa. well done. How does parole work in Victoria? Does Pell have to admit guilt and undergo treatment to qualify for parole or is it automatic?

MelissaDavey66 karma

Not automatic, certain conditions will have to be met.

manaNinja71 karma

Melissa, thank you very much for your work on reporting this - especially when you were working under the suppression order.

What sort of measures do you and your journalist peers take, to protect your own mental health when working on trials like this which have the potential to be distressing?

MelissaDavey176 karma

This will sound trite but my experience was nothing compared to survivors, victims and their advocates. I won't pretend any distress I felt is anywhere close to that. Without going into detail though abuse including sexual is something I am familiar with on a personal level. Most people know someone affected.

I came to rely on the other journalists in the trial for the long haul - Adam Cooper from Fairfax, Karen Sweeney from AAP, Lucie Morris-Marr from New Daily, Emma Younger from ABC, Shannon Deery from Herald Sun... to name a few. Please seek out their work and not the work of those trying to jump on the bandwagon. There weren't many of us there for the entire thing and we banded together and helped each other out.

My news organisation Guardian Australia has been excellent. I'm not just saying that. If I need lieu, a late start, a break.... they allow it without question. I'm so lucky to have the support of the eds, news eds, and other journalists I work with.

phflopti71 karma

Will Pell have to admit guilt/remorse to become eligible for parole (after the 3yrs & 8mths non-parole period of the sentence)? Or does he just have to be 'well behaved' in gaol.

MelissaDavey96 karma

I'm not sure of Pell's parole conditions. Lawyers familiar with the Victorian legal system will correct me if I'm wrong but he has a right to maintain innocence and this won't affect his parole eligibility.

coprolite_breath44 karma

Hi, thank you for your time. Any idea of what the total cost of his defense was? Paid for by the Vatican, I assume?

MelissaDavey152 karma

Millions of dollars. Vatican has said they’re not paying. Ads have been run in catholic publications with details of an account people can donate to in support of Pell’s legal fees. Lots of wealthy Catholics globally. They would have thrown in a fair chunk.

I’ve heard rumours of names funding it but I’d like to avoid a defamation case so I’ll leave it at that. One woman did email me to say she was donating her inheritance to Pell’s legal fund... I can think of oh, a million better causes, but to each their own.

mookler36 karma

What do you think is the most challenging part of being a journalist? What about the easiest part?

MelissaDavey75 karma

It changes! It's challenging for me always wondering what I could have done better, did I do the best job, would i change my approach given another chance, was I always fair, factual and right? I think covering a unique case like Pell means I have to reflect and learn from it.

Other challenges include an industry continuously shrinking, job cuts and redundancies [not at Guardian Australia thank goodness]. But I've been a journalist for a decade and the changes to newsrooms in that time have been dramatic. You just have to be flexible and roll with it.

The easiest part? I never thought about this before. Turning up to work each day I guess - I really do love my job. And reader engagement - I love interaction and discovering what people are interested in.

Litgraffit35 karma

Mandatory reporting Melissa. Do we know when it will come into play in Victoria? Will this open up another avenue for a Pell indictment? Many of us know he was good at the 'tetrus effect' in moving paedophile clerics around.

MelissaDavey82 karma

You mean mandatory reporting for clergy?

From this month in Victoria the list of mandatory reporters was expanded to include who work in out of home care workers/ early childhood and youth justice workers/ registered psychologists.

School counsellors will be mandatory reporters starting January, 2020. Teachers, school principals, doctors, nurses, midwives, and police officers are already required to report [failure to do so is a criminal offence].

Under current laws, priests and people in religious ministry are exempt from mandatory reporting laws BUT the Children, Youth and Families Act is now being amended to make them mandatory reporters too. I'd need to check where this is up to I'm sorry - now sure if this law has been changed already or still in the process of.

bastardsheep33 karma

What is the chances of further investigations in to Pell covering up the abuse of other priests now that we know he himself did such things while working on things like the Melbourne Agreement and was in charge of the church's response to such behaviour at the time he offended?

(IMHO I'm expecting such investigations to be considered completed and any reopening of them would be considered beating a dead horse - but I must ask).

MelissaDavey54 karma

I won't pretend to have any high-level police connections but I would be baffled if investigations weren't underway. Let's wait for the royal commission report into Pell to be released after the appeal.

camocase24 karma

What are your own personal thoughts on Pell and the trial?

And how did you overcome these opinions and maintain a professional stance whilst reporting?

MelissaDavey66 karma

Great question. Quick response as I'm running to board a flight but; I don't believe in being an advocate. I believe facts are powerful enough to speak for themselves. Dispassionate reporting is best.

The trial itself was very interesting, unique, engaging... I feel lucky to have been able to bear witness.

It was also sometimes tedious as.

MelissaDavey33 karma

As for my thoughts on Pell; Arrogant. Guilty.

SGTBookWorm21 karma

What are your opinions on the verdict?

MelissaDavey82 karma

The reasons given by the chief judge were considered, fascinating [in the sense of, I'm not a lawyer so I find the whole court process interesting and engaging] and I think the fact it was an open and transparent sentencing will set a benchmark for how these high profile cases should be run in future.

The trial was fair. That, I am sure of. I believe in the jurors.

bear_crawl19 karma

What is the likelihood of Pell starting an appeal process ?

MelissaDavey46 karma

It's already underway. June will be when we know if he succeeds.

PositiveNarwhal17 karma

Given you sat through all proceedings, saw the victims speak, and heard from the accused (now convicted) - how did the sentence handed out make you feel? How do you think it made the victims and supporters feel? And How do you interpret the reasoning of the judge in determining the sentence that he did?

MelissaDavey50 karma

So many questions!

You can read chief judge Peter Kidd's sentencing reasons for yourself. https://content.countycourt.vic.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/2019-03/dpp-v-pell-sentence-2019-vcc-260.pdf It's not as powerful as watching them delivered [it was broadcast live] but you'll see how considered the sentence was. I take a pretty clinical and dispassionate approach to trials so I didn't feel anything about the sentence apart from 'this process is interesting'.

​I can't speak for victims or supporters but some victims have commented it was too lenient, others found it powerful and validating. Some supporters will be reeling, some will think an injustice has been done, some will have their belief shaken to the core and will be asking themselves some tough questions. I would hope those on the fence took the time to listen to the chief judge and his reasons.

​Sentencing is not a mathematical exercise but a balancing exercise (as the chief judge himself said). On balance, I think Kidd did a very considered job. He is a well-respected and careful chief judge. I don't agree with all of his views/ decisions of course but I respect his sentencing reasons. It was fascinating to hear all the things which he considered and how he considered them. And the way some things pushed him towards leniency and other things pushed him to more severity.

zoopl18 karma

Legitimately fascinating read, even without great juridical knowledge.

MelissaDavey10 karma

I know right!

phflopti17 karma

The Catholic church says it's going to run their own 'enquiry' based on the evidence available from the court case.

I assume a critical part of the trial was the sealed testimony from the victim & the associated cross examination. Will this part of the evidence remain sealed i.e. not available for the church to use in their 'enquiry'?

MelissaDavey53 karma

I have little time for church inquiries. We know they're flawed. They should be handing their files over to police.

And no, the victim testimony won't be handed to the church unless someone with a transcript [lawyers would have transcripts] hands it over. I'm not implying they will do so.

phflopti18 karma

I was wondering if the police can legally compell the church (in Australia at least) to hand over internal church records from Pell's administration.

MelissaDavey49 karma

Oh yes, they can. It's called 'discovery' during court proceedings and yes, police can execute search warrants etc on the church and they do. Whether those documents still exist though...............

RaptorsOnBikes13 karma

Hi Melissa, fantastic work and I hope you get some time to rest and unwind after what has undoubtedly been such a long and emotionally exhausting journey.

I know there has been some talk about introducing judge-only trials for criminal cases, in particular high profile cases.

I'm interested to hear your thoughts on this one in the context of the Pell trials? Obviously we had one mistrial, and of course with such a high profile case I imagine it would be difficult as a juror to remain unbiased and influenced.

However I also saw you mention in another comment that juries rarely get it wrong.

Be great to hear your thoughts.

MelissaDavey34 karma

I support the jury system. Judges aren’t perfect. We shouldn’t put them on a pedestal. 12 jurors coming to a unanimous verdict through considered reasoning is a great system. There is no compelling evidence I’ve seen that judges alone do a better job than jurors.

RaptorsOnBikes12 karma

Thanks. I was feeling the same way, I'm not super comfortable with doing away with juries. (Noting that this would only be done for certain trials).

MelissaDavey17 karma

As for what’s next for those interested;

Usually, a single judge considers the appeal application. If there are grounds for appeal, the matter proceeds to a hearing. This hearing usually takes a day or two. It happens immediately, right after the judge says an appeal hearing is valid. Unlikely that the judge wouldn’t permit the appeal being heard in such a high profile case.

Three judges usually consider the matter at the hearing. If the conviction is set aside, the court may order a new trial, or acquit the accused. Only two out of the three judges need to agree whether the conviction should be set aside or not.

This will all happen in June.

Abashedclover9 karma

Did he show remorse for getting caught or remorse for what he did? That's my only real question?

MelissaDavey3 karma

No remorse and this was factored into sentencing

joyboy065 karma

Have you lost faith after this ordeal?

MelissaDavey22 karma

If you mean religious faith, I never had it in the first place

ivnwng3 karma

Did you take that photo in a sauna?

MelissaDavey4 karma

Haha I wish I had access to a sauna at work.

Old broken iPhone + bright morning lighting 😂

jimmyjames19922 karma


MelissaDavey27 karma

Bit silly of them to weigh in conclusively. Really hard to predict successful conviction appeals even by looking at past stats because each case is so unique.

Pell is appealing on three grounds. It is true that the unreasonable grounds has more chance of succeeding than the other two.

I would by no means say he would be acquitted. This case was pretty solid in the way it was run. Yes legal experts/academics in some circles seem to think he will be acquitted. But many better placed sources I've been speaking to don't think so.

KickAssMiles-2 karma

What's cooler than being cool?

MelissaDavey23 karma

Almost missing an international flight because you were too busy doing a Reddit AMA.