The English rule against pattern evidence (similar facts) has made it difficult to convict organised criminals and serial sex offenders for 118 years.

Illustration: Tiedemann

People in law enforcement have asked Australian governments to introduce a US exception to the rule for 29 years, without success. Charges laid against a former Catholic priest in NSW on October 18 prompted me to send the following to Premier Barry O’Farrell, Police Minister Mike Gallacher, and Justice Minister Greg Smith on October 23.

I received letters thanking me for my interest, but I will be pleasantly surprsied if the law is changed. This is what I wrote:

ref. serial sex offenders; abolition of the 1894 rule against similar facts
Dear Premier and Ministers,
You may recall that 17 months ago (18 May 2011) I made a submission inviting your Government to bring down Rico-type legislation.

RICO effectively eliminates the judge-made rule which conceals evidence of “similar facts”, i.e. evidence of a pattern of criminal acts.

I appreciate that drafting RICO is complicated, but a stroke of the pen could eliminate the rule against similar facts tomorrow. Recent events make its abolition even more urgent.

In July 2012, Strike Force Glenroe began to investigate claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests in NSW, and claims that elements of the church covered up such abuse. The first charges were laid on October 18, when a former priest was alleged to have committed offences against three girls.

One consequence of the rule against similar facts is that judges may rule that an alleged serial sex criminal should receive a separate trial for each victim.

For example, Natasha Wallace reported in The Sydney Morning Herald of 2 July 2004:

“Brother …  has faced eight [separate] trials on child sex abuse charges. Eight times, including yesterday, he has been acquitted, with none of the jurors ever told of the other allegations against him …

Jurors at each trial, before Judge Megan Latham at the NSW District Court since last November, were therefore unaware of the extensive allegations against Brother [M] … ‘It becomes one person’s word against another’, one complainant said yesterday.”

With every good wish, etc

Evan Whitton is a legal historian. Dr Robert Moles (LLB Hons Belfast, PhD Edinburgh) said his fourth book on the law, Our Corrupt Legal System: Why Everyone Is a Victim (Except Rich Criminals), “is one of the most important books I have ever read on the common law legal system. [It] should be required reading on Introduction to Law courses in all law schools”.

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    • Sync says:

      05:27am | 14/11/12

      The law won’t be changed to protect the public. It’s apparently not in the public’s best interests to be protected. If it was, there’d be more rights for victims and fewer rights for criminals.

    • Phil says:

      08:21am | 14/11/12

      Correct. When many in the judicial system are freemasons and seek to protect other freemasons, the system will never be cleaned out.

      This law needs to be changed immediately, however your chances are low.

    • Criminologist says:

      06:07am | 14/11/12

      Nothing should supercede the right to a fair trial.

    • Nick says:

      09:04am | 14/11/12

      That’s not at issue Criminologist, what is at issue is what constitutes “fair”.  Properly established evidence of a pattern of behaviour seems like a fair and reasonable thing to allow juries to consider.

    • iansand says:

      09:27am | 14/11/12

      Properly established evidence of a pattern of behaviour already is a thing to allow juries to consider, as demonstrated by many posts in this thread. Although you would never know that if you read anything written by Whitton

    • Nick says:

      11:30am | 14/11/12

      So I’ve read various comments below - I’m not a lawyer, I’m a geneticist but I’m seeing a knee jerk “it’s not fair” response to the general question.  I obviously understand that probative value should outweigh predjudicial value - it is, in various forms, a standard test for evidence in all sorts of situations - and I assume that argument takes place before the judge.  I don’t understand why in the particular example Whitton described above the defendant should be permitted to parse out each accusation and argue that on it’s individual merits without regard to the fact that seven other people have made a similar accusation.  Unless those accusations were somehow confounded with each other of course - for example the police went to 100 girls and asked did thisparticular man molest you?  Why should the accused get to make that call - or has Whitton poorly described the situation and it is an argument that takes place between the prosecution and the defence?

    • Fiddler says:

      12:25pm | 14/11/12

      Nick, probative versus prejudicial is the exact test used. IE saying a person is a convicted criminal and must have done it is far more prejudicial than probative, but saying that for example a priest has been convicted of molesting ten other altar boys in similar fashion would generally speaking be allowed into evidence

    • Criminologist says:

      01:04pm | 14/11/12

      Nick,

      In answer to your question, one of the basic tenants in law is that the prosecution has to prove their case.  This is accepted as being the case because of the ramifications to the accused.  Each crime that a person is accused of should be able to proved on it’s on as a stand alone offence.  Complete from one end to the other.  If you haven’t got that evidence then a charge fails.  It’s not acceptable to say well for seven of the eight crimes we have evidence and if you accept that he must also be guilty of the eighth crime.  It’s similarly not fair to say well he is guilty of one offence so he must be guilty of the other seven.  That’s not fair. The law thus applies that to each and every offence.  Every aspect of every offence must be provable on it’s own.  Otherwise if I can get eight people together to all make an allegation against you (that you and I both know is false) then by the fact that you must be guilty because you have eight accusers is simply not tenable.

      The argument takes place before the judge and since the prosecution is the one bringing the allegations, has to argue successfully before the judge why the other charges must be heard together. 

      Many accusations together is not the same as, these crimes were so unusual across space and time they were likely committed by the one person.  At the heart of it you will hopefully see they are two completely different entities and the law does not combine them together for these reasons.

    • Nick says:

      03:55pm | 14/11/12

      Thanks for those responses…remarkably for The Punch it has been an informative discussion.  I have quibbles with bits of what has been said, but I think my overwhelming response is confusion about what Whitton is trying to say.  He appears to be saying that a judge’s capacity to rule against a “similar facts” argument should be eliminated in cases of child sexual abuse, but somebody, or some body of people, has to make the call and I think it would be dangerous to leave that call to the jury itself.

      It would be interesting to know how judges make the call - my work is heavily statistical and I know that common sense, and even educated sense, is fallible to say the least.  For example, it may be that if eight people make the same charge, and there is no evidence of collusion or other confounding issues, then that is so unlikely that a jury should be allowed to make the call.

    • Criminologist says:

      05:14pm | 14/11/12

      The long history of previous cases (case law) guides the Prosecution.  They know what qualifies as similar fact evidence.  Similar fact evidence is usually tested by Prosecution and Defence prior to it being led before the jury.  The Judge decides if he is sufficiently satisfied that the similar fact evidence is convincing enough to be put to the jury.  I am unable to determine why Mr Whitton thinks RICO applies (he may know something about it that I don’t) to sex offences.  Similar fact evidence I believe is more appropriate. 

      With you last example, whilst on the surface appears compelling, benefit of doubt goes towards the accused and since he is the one facing prosecution, should be able to have a say in defending himself and how that is done.  He’s the only one facing consequences.

    • Nick says:

      06:02pm | 14/11/12

      It’s not strictly true that the accused is the only one facing consequences - when a guilty person is found not guilty their victim has suffered a substantial consequence.

      But for sure we need to have a process that ensures innocent people are essentially never found guilty and this article/discussion hasn’t left me feeling like there is an overwhelming need for change.  I suppose what I have realised is that there is such a thing as a similar fact argument, and that the prosecution can also argue that cases should be tried together.  I think Whitton needs to argue why the way in which judges use their discretion should change and he hasn’t done that here.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:30am | 14/11/12

      Interesting article.  Can someone explain this concept to me like I’m five, and how it came into effect?

      I would have thought that a pattern of (proveable) behaviour would be key to ascertaining a person’s role in a crime…

    • Fiddler says:

      08:14am | 14/11/12

      see my post below. He is asking for something that already exists and has done so for a very long time, then comparing it to legislation which has nothing to do with it. A very poor article I am afraid.

    • Tim says:

      08:21am | 14/11/12

      Thats the whole point Mahhrat, the behavior hasn’t been proved.

      It’s more like where there’s smoke there must be fire legislation.

    • Criminologist says:

      08:26am | 14/11/12

      Similar Fact Evidence essentially covers crimes committed in such a similar way, that evidence of previous crimes committed in such a unique way, that they afford evidence of similarity to future crimes.

      The accused sexually assaults a woman wearing a purple hat, pretends he’s a cable tv man to gain entry and leaves behind a playing card is significantly unusual enough to be relevant to a later crime committed, that evidence of the accused having done it before can be used in the present trial.  The way the crimes were committed were so unusual, there’s a pretty good chance they were all done by the same person.

      In the above instance the accused hasn’t been convicted of a crime and there may have not have been any unusual circumstances where the Prosecution can demonstrate ‘similar fact evidence’.

      That you have numerous complaints at the one time is not evidence of guilt.

      The accused can choose to separate accusers and ask for separate trials.  It’s their right and has been for a very long time.

      Fairness must be afforded to the person accused, who faces conviction, at all times.

    • AdamC says:

      08:53am | 14/11/12

      It seems to me that Judge’s would need to weigh the evidentiary value of past (or allegedly co-incident) acts of the defendant with the risk that revealing those past acts would unfairly prejudice the defence. (That is, an accused could basically be re-convicted of a past crime by a jury, rather than said jury really weighing the evidence in the case at hand.)

      I agree with Criminologist that merely being accused of multiple crimes by multiple complainants is not itself evidence of guilt, unless there are very specific characteristics of the various offences.

      I thought this article was entirely unsatisfactory, as it did not provide the reader (at least, any reader, like me, who is not entirely conversant with criminal trial and evidentiary rules) with enough information to consider the issue.

    • Mahhrat says:

      08:59am | 14/11/12

      Thanks Criminologist, that’s much obliged.

    • Tristan says:

      10:24am | 14/11/12

      A better explanation is this: The law excludes evidence which tends to show that a person is guilty of the offence he is charged with simply because he has been convicted/acquitted of a similar offence.

      This prohibition is central to our criminal justice system and the accused’s right to a fair trial. For example, just because someone rapes one person, does NOT mean they raped another person. Each charge ought to be considered in isolation to ensure that the accused is not unfairly prejudiced.

      What Mr Whitton doesn’t acknowledge in his typically biased and poorly reasoned article, is that the law already has ways to adduce this type of similar fact evidence if it’s probative value (cogency) outweighs its prejudicial effect. This is a sensible test that is applied on a case by case basis.

      Mr Whitton - to abolish this rule of law would have dire unintended consequences for innocent people on trial. Knee-jerk responses to perceived problems and black/white reasoning are NEVER the answer.

    • PJ says:

      06:32am | 14/11/12

      It is unfair to target the Catholic Church only with the unforgivable sin of child abuse. I appreciate that the Labor Party has an abhorrence of Religious worship but the statistics say an Australian child is more at danger from abuse outside the Catholic Church.

      For 2010/11 the AIHW recorded 273,000 notifications of child abuse. Of these 90,000 were deemed worthy of investigation. Some 40,000 were proven.

      Broken Rite, a body that records the misdemeanours of the Catholic Church maintains in that same period, 100 cases were attributable to the Catholic Church.

      So that leaves 39,900 attributable to us, the Australian public.

      For a matter of record, 5192 roundabouts were sexual abuse of children. So for 2010/11 thats 100 for the Catholic Church and 5092 to us, the average Australian.

      ‘Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.’

      We need the cancer of child abuse cut out of our society and institutions. That can only be possible if we widen the focus and not concentrate on the anti religious agenda only.

      Thank goodness Abbott persuaded Julia Gillard to make a Royal Commission that would investigate all our institutions so we could actually concentrate on reducing Child Abuse, rather than just a political agenda against religious practice.

    • morrgo says:

      08:06am | 14/11/12

      PJ, you are just plain wrong.  Parliamentary Labor has its fair share of very devoted religious people.  Among them a major proportion of Catholics, some of whom are more conservative than the average. Just do some Google search, I think naming names would be moderated out here.

      The focus on the Catholic Church is because it puts itself forward as the ultimate arbiter of righteousness, while engaging in institutionalized cover-up of such disgusting crime.

    • Chris L says:

      08:22am | 14/11/12

      Again you are turning this into a political matter. From the first announcement this commission was assigned to investigate multiple organisations including non-religious ones. I acknowledge you have a special hatred for the left wing, but where is this persecution you speak of?

    • KimL says:

      08:24am | 14/11/12

      100 children abused by Catholic Priests is 100 too many, these men are in a position of trust… There should be zero cases

    • Potato says:

      08:29am | 14/11/12

      And whilst PJ continues in his attempt to sweep the horrible abuses and cover-ups of the catholic church under the carpet, by asserting rediculous claims like “only 100 cases can be attributable to the church” Lets puts some facts and reporting around the matter:

      Here police confirm 40 suicides in VICTORIA can be confirmed as direct result of Catholic sexual abuse:
      http://www.canberratimes.com.au/victoria/churchs-suicide-victims-20120412-1wwox.html

      Melbourne Arch-diocese confirms SIXTY priests identified as abusing children (just in Melbourne)…
      Compensation provided to THREE HUNDRED victims:
      http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/police-slam-catholic-church-20121010-27dr2.html

      ONE HUNDRED AND SEVENTY abuse charges laid against clergy in the HUNTER VALLEY:
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-07-26/newcastle-catholic-bishop-supports-abuse-inquiry/4157078

      In Victoria, SIX HUNDRED AND TWENTY cases of child abuse reported to clergy, none of these forwarded to police:
      http://www.abc.net.au/7.30/content/2012/s3631167.htm

      There are FOUR HUNDRED KNOWN VICTIMS in the NSW Hunter Valley Diocese alone:
      http://www.abc.net.au/news/2012-11-13/smith-we-owe-our-gratitude-to-those-who-stood-with-victims/4368310

      FOUR HUNDRED AND FIFTY victims of SEVENTY clergy identified in Melbourne Arch-Diocese”
      http://www.molestedcatholics.com/index.php?id=538


      Look, I could go on and on and on, there are tens of thousands of cases - I myself know two victims of clergy abuse.

      In the Hunter (where I lived from many years) there have been 12 suicides of victims of Catholic child abuse, including at least one within the last 12 months

      For you PJ to continually comment that “the problem in the church is not that big, its only 100 people, lets focus on other things which are more important” is blatant nonsense – trying to somehow justify that the crimes committed within an organisation, and then covered up by that organisation is repugnant …

      There are tens of thousands of reported incidents within the catholic church over the last 2 decades, which have resulted in many many dozens of suicides and many thousands of lives destroyed.

      How could anyone (such as Pell, and other catholic sympathisers) stand at the pulpit on Sundays and preacha bout helping the downtrodden and poor, about assisting the weak and those who need help…

      But then leaving the victims of child abuse out to dry because “only a few hundred cases is not enough to warrant a specific investigation”.

      Its vile!

    • Potato says:

      08:33am | 14/11/12

      PJ says: “Broken Rite, a body that records the misdemeanours of the Catholic Church”

      So, PJ, you regard sexual abuse of children and then a concerted effort to cover up that abuse as a ‘misdemeanour’ ...???!!  probably not the word many would use, but it illustrates how you view the role of the Church in these atrocious crimes….

    • TracyH says:

      08:51am | 14/11/12

      Thank you, Potato. I just hope PJ can digest this, and can join the vast majority in their understanding on why this RC is needed, urgently.

    • andye says:

      09:05am | 14/11/12

      @PJ - It is a little tiring the way you weave some partisan blame argument into stories time and time again. At the time of posting, you are literally the only person to mention “Gillard” in the story or comments. Then you end with some argument that presents the amazing tale of how Abbott overruled Gillard?

      You spin so much. You must get quite dizzy.

    • TracyH says:

      10:27am | 14/11/12

      PJ…you keep regurgitating your opinion on other posts, yet have nothing to say about potato’s links? That just makes you look even more of a denier.

    • Onlooker says:

      12:03pm | 14/11/12

      I come from The Hunter also and I know Potato is 100% correct, The sexual abuse has left The Hunter reeling as I am sure it has of every other area where victims have been abused by these priests. Instead of denying PJ..get out there and help clean up your church..it is a rats nest

    • Fiddler says:

      06:34am | 14/11/12

      RICO (Racketeering Influenced & Corrupt Organisation) laws are nothing to do with serial sex offences, they are actually about fighting organised crime such as the mafia.

      What you are actually talking about is “tendency and coincidence evidence”. This already exists s94 Evidence Act 1995 (in NSW anyway)

    • iansand says:

      08:13am | 14/11/12

      Evidence Act 1995 No 25

      101   Further restrictions on tendency evidence and coincidence evidence adduced by prosecution

      (1)  This section only applies in a criminal proceeding and so applies in addition to sections 97 and 98.

      (2)  Tendency evidence about a defendant, or coincidence evidence about a defendant, that is adduced by the prosecution cannot be used against the defendant unless the probative value of the evidence substantially outweighs any prejudicial effect it may have on the defendant.

      (3)  This section does not apply to tendency evidence that the prosecution adduces to explain or contradict tendency evidence adduced by the defendant.

      (4)  This section does not apply to coincidence evidence that the prosecution adduces to explain or contradict coincidence evidence adduced by the defendant.

    • Criminologist says:

      08:14am | 14/11/12

      You are correct Fiddler, RICO targets leaders of organised crime who order others to commit crimes.  Which is probably why RICO has not been applied by the NSW Government in relation to sex offenders.

      The reference should be to similar fact evidence.

    • Colin says:

      06:37am | 14/11/12

      Child abuse is a heinous and disgusting crime and the perpetrators should be punished to the full extent of the law.

      The concept that Pattern Evidence (similar facts) should be enacted as a blanket procedure in judicio, however, is fraught with danger for other cases of criminal law where largely unlucky or unwitting defendants can be tarred as a criminal with a series of unconnected events.

      Indeed, if a prosecutor is wily enough, physically unconnected and temporally separated events could - conceivably - be coalesced into a seemingly damning string of evidence illustrating the supposed long-term, continual, and habitual miscreant behaviour of the accused.

      By all means, have the judicial system granted all the power it needs to rid us of the detritus of society that paedophiles and child molesters are, but don’t threaten everyone else’s ability to a fair and equitable trial in a court of law in doing so…

    • Chris L says:

      08:26am | 14/11/12

      Much like the ISP filter. Introducing a danger to law and liberty for ostensibly decent motives.

      If I believed in hell I would picture the road leading there to be paved with good intentions.

    • Colin says:

      08:57am | 14/11/12

      @Chris L

      Indeed.

      How many a good man (and woman) has gone to the gallows with scant regard for probatio vincit praesumptionem..?

    • Philosopher says:

      09:01am | 14/11/12

      many (not all) paedophiles were themselves sexually abused as children; their sexual selves are nearly irrevocably intertwined with the vulnerability and beauty of children, despite knowing that these feelings are abhorrent to society at large. These men are caught up in a terrible loop of perversion, that one day we will be able to view in a clearer light and with more insight. Some are indeed monsters; others are self-hating, broken dolls of humanity, destined only to continue sending out ripples of harm to young victims.

    • tren says:

      09:22am | 14/11/12

      my worry exactly Colin.

    • dafall says:

      06:39am | 14/11/12

      Good news !!  At least Pell and his mob will be too busy covering their own arses to interfere with anyone elses pro temps.  Good luck separating the effed from the faction(s).

    • iansand says:

      07:59am | 14/11/12

      Are you suggesting that RICO be applied to the Catholic Church?  That would certainly give Cardinal Pell the conniptions.  I suspect that you do not understand RICO, which applies to organisations not individuals and has no relevance to the admissibility of similar fact evidence.

      The ban on similar fact evidence is not absolute, by a long way.  “Evidence of prior bad acts by the accused will be admissible if the prosecution satisfies the judge on a balance of probabilities that, in the context of the particular case, the probative value of the evidence in relation to a specific issue outweighs its potential prejudice and thereby justifies its reception”.* 

      Why the evidence was not admitted in the case to which Whitton refers I do not know because, by not giving the name, he has made it impossible to track down.  That in itself makes me wonder whether Whitton is on his usual ill-informed warpath.

      *Wikipedia, but reasonably accurate http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Similar_fact_evidence

    • Achmed says:

      08:05am | 14/11/12

      I question Abbott’s motives.  He would only agree to support the Royal Commission on the condition it was not only into the Catholic Church - was this to minimise and deflect from his beloved Church?  He has looked very uncomforable when asked about his relationship with Pell, to the point he has refused to acknowledge and /or answer questions when asked about it.

      I wonder if the Commission will go as far into the past as to cover Abbott’s time in the Seminary…....

    • T S says:

      08:49am | 14/11/12

      If you are wondering why it has taken so long for a Royal Commission perhaps you might also want to also question the links of the Right faction of the Labor party to the Catholic Church. If you want to launch a smear by association campaign I hope you are ready for where it might lead….

    • Sync says:

      09:34am | 14/11/12

      @Achmed


      Just how did child abuse sex offences allegedly committed by priests of the Catholic Church become a smear campaign against Tony Abbott…?

      You’re not acrotroll, are you…?

    • KimL says:

      08:16am | 14/11/12

      The media can only report on what is going on out there, when Catholic Priests are charged for child abuse or victims come forward it is reported. I am afraid Cardinal Pell is try to shift the blame to the media, instead of looking at Catholic priests wrong doings. I have often thought that these pedophiles, be it priest or anyone else who abuses children, should be put in a jail on the Nullarbor and left there for life, but with the amount of people sexually abusing Australian children, the jail would have to be as big as Sydney to house them all. These people serve their time and get out to abuse again. These priest Catholic or any other denomination are insidious, they are in a position of trust and that makes it easier to abuse a child

    • Wisteria says:

      08:23am | 14/11/12

      In relation to individual offences all jurisidications in Australia have provisions within the cirminal law to allow prior bad acts etc into evidence.  However, it is up to the prosecution in each case to argue that these prior bad acts are admissible.  If the prosecution cannot make its case then that’s the prosecutions fault not the law’s.

      Secondly, as I am sure you well know, but which you conviently omit to mention, is that the RICO laws relate to an organised criminal enterprise or racketeering not a succession of prior bad acts by an individual. What constitutes racketeering is highly proscribed.

      This is a severe case of dog whistling.

      It is true that there have been prosecutions in America (in Boston predominantly) seeking that RICO suits be filed against members of the church on the basis of a consipiracy.  However, these suits failed because mishandling abuse cases was not considered to amount to criminal racketeering.  Which you again conviently failed to omit.

      Criminal conspiracy charges are amongst the most notoriously difficult to prove.  You appear to be asking for the imposition of a law which is one of the least likely to succeed and the amongst the most difficult to proceed with and prosecute.

    • lostinperth says:

      09:11am | 14/11/12

      Similar facts evidence can be used in some states but the prosecution has to prove that it is relevant.

      Our legal system operates on the basis that a person is charged with a particular crime based on a particular set of events.  It is up to the prosecution to prove that the person is guilty based on the facts of that set of events. Similar facts evidence is an attempt to introduce evidence that may or may not relate to the offence to gain a conviction.

      Courts are loath to use it not because it protects anyone, rather that it interferes with the presumption of innocence.

      Just because a person robbed shop A it doesn’t mean that he robbed shop B. The facts surrounding the robbery of shop B must prove conclusively by themselves that the person charged actually committed the crime. The fact that they robbed shop A should not have any bearing on the evidence or trial concerning shop B.

      Everyone, even those accused of child abuse, deserve a fair trial.

    • Robert S McCormick says:

      09:16am | 14/11/12

      The Law won’t be changed for there are far too many people in positions of influence & power with expensive lobbyists to ensure their protection is maintained.
      Simply remove any & all of the “outs” used by smart-arse lawyers, with the help of highly paid psychologists & psychiatrists who, simply because they are being paid huge sums of money, have vested interests in getting offenders off.
      Remove all protections other than those which enable a person to get a Fair & Open Trial. No psycho-babblers.
      Remoove that most ridiculous of all excuses: “I was sexually abused therefore I sexually abuse”.
      No apologies, men & women, if you were sexually abused as a child & found it so abhorrent there is no way you would want to inflict such horrors on those you claim to “Love”.
      I would like to see the response of a Judge & Jury if anyone was caught burgularising someone’s home & they tried to use as their excuse for doing so: “Well, your Honour, my home was burgularised when I was a child and that’s why I did it”
      Simplistic? Yes, it is, but that is the sort of claim people, their lawyers & shrinks use with regard to Child Sex Abuse charges.
      Just as the “Drunk” plea has long-since been removed so too should all so-called excuses for paedophile attacks be.
      People in SA will remember the Beaumont Children Disappearance and, at the time, the talk of a group of paedophiles known as “The Family”. At the time it was openly stated that it was suspected, indeed even known, that members of this paedophile group included Lawyers, Judges, Senior Police, Politicians, Stockbrokers, Captains of Industry, Clergy, School Teachers & others involved in children’s surf lifesaving & other sporting programmes.
      The man convicted of the murder of the Kelvin child was assumed tobe part of “The Family”. Maybe one day he will be able to get his story out of the prison & it be published after his death. It could make very interesting, & for some, dangerous reading!!
      The police were powerless for they ran into a wall of silence & protection.
      Or so it has long been alleged.

    • patsy says:

      09:35am | 14/11/12

      I’m no expert on the law but, we may need a completely new law. If Cardinal Pell can get away with “What’s said in the confessional, stays in the confessional” will this set a precedent for those wishing to apply Sharia law? Or would it be like Judge Judy’s “Don’t tell me that. It’s just hear say”

    • Fiddler says:

      11:31am | 14/11/12

      no. Generally speaking if a person has information about an offence and fails to provide it to law enforcement they can be charged with “conceal serious offence”. Admissions are an exception to the hearsay rule, so if someone admits to a serious offence to you and you don’t provide that to the police you can be charged (generally this only happens for things such as murder).

      However there is an exception to this rule, things such as solicitors privilege and a priests confessional’s are generally exempt from this. It may be this needs to be reviewed

    • patsy says:

      12:34pm | 14/11/12

      @Fiddler-I was just listening to the radio while I was doing what I was suposed to be doing and some one said that the priest who hears the confession and dosn’t report it is an accessory after the fact. Would this be right?

    • Criminologist says:

      01:13pm | 14/11/12

      Priests and confessions are exempted by the current law, so they can’t be an accessory after the fact and they are presently are protected from revealing that confession.  Until the law changes to confessions to a Priest no longer being protected, this will not change.  It has nothing to do with the Priest side of it, it’s relates to confessions to a Priest from anyone.  The law was written when the Church had a strong influence in the lawmakers.  As Fiddler said, Solicitors have the same privilege, you can make confessions to a Solicitor who is protected from revealing that conversation in the court.

    • Fiddler says:

      01:15pm | 14/11/12

      This is generally speaking an exception. From memory to prosecute a psychiatrist, solicitor, priest etc for something like this you need special permission from the Attorney Generals department.

    • Criminologist says:

      01:20pm | 14/11/12

      Husband and Wife used also have the same protected privilege, neither could provide evidence that the other confessed to them, but this has largely been removed in most States.

    • patsy says:

      03:51pm | 14/11/12

      Fiddler & Crominologist-Thanks for all the information. So, the royal commission would have to get special permission from th A.G Dept. I’ll have to wait and see just how serious they are about this.

    • Ted says:

      10:49am | 14/11/12

      What service would you expect in a mafiacracy???????

    • NightStalker says:

      11:01am | 14/11/12

      If one of these things did something to one of mine, then I would speak harshly to them…they would then see the terror of their ways, sorry I meant error of their ways.

    • Jo says:

      11:15am | 14/11/12

      And to think my husband was falsely and maliciously accused by an evil girl who thought it was great getting all the attention and sympathy she did. We endured 4 years of hell, committal hearings, two aborted trials, ‘witnesses’ committing perjury , death threats, shame, loss of income and no reimbursement of over $75k in legal fees, and now I have cancer which I put down to the stress of it all. And what happened to her once her lies were uncovered? Nothing. She was still a minor and didn’t even get a slap on the wrist. Her life has gone on just fine.

      Some say where there is smoke there is fire, but I say often where’s there’s fire there’s an arsonist! On one side we have churches protecting child abusers, and on the other side the like of Bravehearts who believe every man is a deviant and can’t be trusted. You should have seen the faces on the jurors at my husband’s trials. And yet none ever found out that all charges were dropped. In their minds he was guilty by virtue of being accused. All it takes is a ‘story’ to get the nightmare started, even if no real evidence is produced by the accusers except that story, no matter how ridiculous it may be. There is no truth serum.

      Until you are caught up on the wrong side of the law you have no idea how it works. You are stuck on a speeding train and you can’t make it stop. I just hope something worthwhile comes out of any Royal Commission and that the real victims get justice and the guilty are punished as they should be. What that girl did to our family was an insult to REAL child sex abuse victims.

    • Steve Putnam says:

      05:18pm | 14/11/12

      Whitton has long argued his preference for an inquisitorial legal system over the adversarial one we have at present. In doing so, he has been guilty of presenting all of the positives for the fomer but none for the latter. That he should use the issue of child sex abuse to push his pet idea is utterly contemptible.
      The rare atmosphere of consensus we have at present must not be jeopardised by Quixotic forays such as Whitton’s poorly argued diatribe.
      If you seriously care about this issue Evan, do all the victims and their families a favour and shut it.

 

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