The biggest news in Australia that Australians don't know yet.
December 13, 2018 1:04 PM   Subscribe

While the news is available to the rest of the world, the majority of Australians don't know that the most senior catholic in the country, Cardinal George Pell, is now a convicted paedophile. At the request of the prosecution, a suppression order forbids the media from reporting this, in an effort to preserve impartiality in further trials. The trial inspired a Tim Minchin song two years ago, it's popularity indicating the public interest.
posted by adept256 (64 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's so weird to hear nothing about this in Australian media. I found out from reddit and doubted it because if it were true, it would be all over the radio and tv. Now I know why. I can't argue with the logic behind the decision to effectively censor this, but it is bizarre and unsettling how thoroughly it has been censored.
posted by adept256 at 1:15 PM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


"Further trials" is not a hypothetical. There's another trial currently in the courts, and those involved deserve justice as much as the case in discussion. Like, right now. This verdict is important, but it's only the tip of the iceberg.

It'll be aaaaaaaaaaaaaall over the place like mad once that case is tried. It's just a matter of waiting for everyone to get their day in court on equal footing.
posted by Jilder at 1:18 PM on December 13, 2018 [16 favorites]


I think it's a little concerning that we have to be so careful about preserving impartiality toward a CONVICTED PEDOPHILE. The fact that he's been proven guilty for that absolutely should color people's perception of him. Why should people be impartial to the fact that he's molested children? Seems like that's relevant to his character in every other matter.
posted by rikschell at 1:27 PM on December 13, 2018 [19 favorites]


That Minchin song is actually pretty amazing, just as a song. I've gotten it stuck in my head for ages. Did Pell ever, indeed, frigging sue him?
posted by Countess Elena at 1:29 PM on December 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


I think it's a little concerning that we have to be so careful about preserving impartiality toward a CONVICTED PEDOPHILE.
I think it's to avoid him, or others like him, escaping justice in the grounds that his trial was prejudiced by the media coverage. So I think this is about preserving the fair trial and just outcome for his victims at least as much, if not more.
posted by pulposus at 1:37 PM on December 13, 2018 [43 favorites]


Yeah I'm a little unclear why the fact that someone has a prior conviction for a related crime isn't considered fair game. That's not as much "fairness" as willful blindness.

But not like we don't have enough problems in the US judicial system, so as long as people are satisfied it's producing the right outcomes, whatever works I guess.
posted by Kadin2048 at 1:38 PM on December 13, 2018


And is this where the church stops claiming "it's just a few bad apples"?
posted by DreamerFi at 1:38 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I think it's to avoid him, or others like him, escaping justice in the grounds that his trial was prejudiced by the media coverage.

By telling the truth? This is why "the truth is an absolute defense" is important - by saying that no, you cannot be defamed by the truth, it becomes hard to argue that it's unfair that people are pointing out reality.
posted by NoxAeternum at 1:41 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I don't think this is a defamation thing. More that if everyone knows that he was convicted for abusing one child then it will be impossible to find a jury in the next trial against him that won't automatically think "we already know he did it to the one child so of course he did it to this one".
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:47 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


It all seems a bit useless in the era of the internet, though?
posted by Chrysostom at 1:54 PM on December 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


It's to ensure the best possible chance of getting an impartial jury for the next trial - and there IS going to be a next trial. Same reason why you cannot introduce previous convictions into a trial until the sentencing phase - you cannot risk there being a chance that the case could be thrown out because the jurors have been prejudiced.

People seem to be taking this as an effort to protect Pell and there are cries of conspiracy theories everywhere. It is not. It's an effort to ensure that the (alleged) victims of the crimes being tried at the next trial are not re-traumatised any more than we can help, by making sure that the trial proceeds with as few impediments as possible, that he only needs to be tried once for those crimes, and that those victims get justice. People may not like that the law is this way, but it is the law and it does exist for a good reason. I'm absolutely incensed by all the people sharing the overseas news on Facebook and whipping the crowds into a frenzy over it, without bothering to explore the reasoning behind it.
posted by andraste at 1:55 PM on December 13, 2018 [44 favorites]


They actually changed the law in the UK to allow evidence of 'bad character' (that's essentially prior convictions) under certain circumstances and for certain crimes that are more likely to have repeat offenders (that includes child abuse)

Having details repressed in the media is more likely to be protect victims, especially if they are juveniles.

I'm a leftie liberal so I'm all for protecting the defendant but I can see the arguments from the other side. Someone I once worked with did jury service and he said it was a bit ridiculous and confusing that both sides the case had to dance around the fact that the accused was an habitual criminal and pretend that it was the first time he'd been accused of anything criminal despite seeming to be extremely experienced in the technicalities of crime.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:58 PM on December 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


From the FPP link:
That the Australian justice system takes enforcement seriously is clear. Last spring, an Australian state court employee was fired merely for looking up details of charges facing Cardinal Pell in a restricted computer system, according to the Catholic publication Crux. [My emphasis]

The suppression order is remaining in place, reportedly because there is another case against Pell, on separate charges, making its way through the courts.

The secrecy surrounding the court case — and now the verdict — is offensive. That’s especially so because it echoes the secrecy that has always been so appalling a part of widespread sexual abuse by priests.
I can understand and sympathize with the intent behind the gag order, but there is a real cost to this kind of secrecy. Are Australian juries so inevitably biased by media coverage that they can't be trusted to approach the evidence presented to them in an impartial way? I doubt it. Certainly we're all influenced by information in the media to a greater or lesser extent, but it's not clear to me that the benefits to legal impartiality outweigh the damage done to a society that is grappling with the abuses committed by a paternalistic organization that shielded sexual abusers under the guise of keeping secrets in the public interest.
posted by biogeo at 2:06 PM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


Are Australian juries so inevitably biased by media coverage that they can't be trusted to approach the evidence presented to them in an impartial way? I doubt it.

I doubt it too, and I think most of us do, but it's not even about that. It's about not allowing his legal team to have the slightest sliver of a reason to get a mistrial or retrial or whatever they can get by claiming that the jury was biased by the media coverage.

I have as much anger about the Catholic church that's enabled this kind of abuse to happen and be covered up for centuries as any average Australian, but this is not going to be swept under the rug and it is not going to be covered up forever. It's only until the conclusion of the next trial. Once that has happened it will be public.
posted by andraste at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2018 [11 favorites]


The issue of name suppression breaches is in the news in NZ as well. Tourist backpacker is murdered, accused has name suppression, Google Trends mails out the name, now the defence argues the accused's trial is compromised.
posted by Paragon at 2:17 PM on December 13, 2018 [9 favorites]


At the request of the prosecution
Worth highlighting that bit. It's not some draconian anti-freeze peach thing, and it's not the defence trying to help him wiggle out of public responsibility. It's the prosecution trying to make damned sure any convictions from the upcoming second trial stick to him like glue.
posted by Pinback at 2:26 PM on December 13, 2018 [28 favorites]


Yeah, not a one of us thinks this is for Pell's safety. It's so there's even the tiniest bit of a thread of a loophole that would allow him to escape justice for the rest of his crimes. I mean we're talking the fucking Vatican legal team here. They're going to be all over every possible avenue of escape, and a suppression order is to cut off one of them.
posted by Jilder at 2:28 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Yeah, I get that this isn't for Pell's benefit. But to me it seems like ultimately the better place to be is for there to be an established legal precedent that an argument by the defense that any jury is necessarily tainted by media coverage is simply a non-starter as a tactic. Because for at least 20 years now, access to information has simply been too broad and too international for gag orders to really work effectively anyway, and this BS argument shouldn't even get to be in the defense's playbook. Otherwise, even with a gag order, there's a chance to use that argument when the information inevitably gets out. Better to have systems in place that ensure a fair trial even under the assumption that the names and details of the trial may become public.

That said, I don't know that this case is the place for that legal challenge to occur.

Regardless of the intent or the legal merits, a gag order seems to communicate the idea that yet another paternalistic group of leaders are hiding information from you, supposedly for your own benefit, but you just have to trust them. I can understand why this message rankles some people in this case, even if the reason for the gag order is understood.
posted by biogeo at 2:46 PM on December 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


A similar issue is brewing now that Chris Dawson, made famous by the Teacher's Pet podcast, has been arrested for murdering his first wife. The podcast might get taken down in Australia to prevent the same kind of publicity problem.
posted by orrnyereg at 2:47 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


I can just see the jury vetting process

"Do you have access to the internet?"
"Yes"
"Next"

Repeat until jury roll is exhausted.
posted by unliteral at 2:58 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I'm actually quite shocked by the way US prosecutors use the media. There are even TV shows that show people getting arrested! Some of those people are undoubtedly innocent; even the other ones don't deserve to have what amounts to a second punishment ladled out by TV stations chasing ratings.

I can't help thinking that this sort of circus has more to do with the career interests of prosecutors and other politicians than the public interest in justice. It shows them being "tough on crime" and gives the prosecutors more leverage over defendants.
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:05 PM on December 13, 2018 [21 favorites]


It's only not-news if you don't read The Guardian, which you should be!
posted by turbid dahlia at 3:24 PM on December 13, 2018


Agreed; I don't think anyone should emulate the US glorification of arrests and the associated media circus. I think the knife cuts both ways, though; the media circus and the grandstanding of his defense attorneys had a lot to do with OJ Simpson's unjust acquittal. Ultimately I think it benefits the wealthy and powerful regardless of whether they're defending or prosecuting. Surely there's an alternative besides gag orders versus public spectacles, though.
posted by biogeo at 3:28 PM on December 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


Personally I find it frightening that so many people are okay with this sort of government censorship.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:39 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Also, there is/was an editorial published by the Sydney Morning Herald that was removed. Even the Internet Archive, for some reason, only displays its cached version for a second. It's been totally erased.

Almost. Here it is:

Rampant use of suppression orders has become absurd
13 December 2018 — 9:54am

The rampant use of suppression orders by Victorian courts has become almost absurd; in the digital era news reports and other information instantly span the world, amplified by social media. Seeking to censor information has become futile, as the international coverage of a case we can not tell you about in any detail demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt.

We are legally blocked from telling you any details because the internationally prominent person found guilty of appalling crimes will face a related trial next year. The Victorian County Court has blocked the publication of details, including the perpetrator’s name and the charges, in the belief it could prejudice the jury in the second hearing. Victorian courts issue more suppression orders than the rest of Australia's states and territories combined.

This is standard practice.

Suppression orders have a noble genesis; they are intended to help ensure a fair trial by preventing jurors from being influenced by media coverage.

That is obviously outmoded, yet the courts have responded by issuing a blizzard of suppression orders. Victorian courts issue more of them than do all the rest of the states and territories combined.

In a review last year, former Court of Appeal Judge Frank Vincent found that of the 1594 orders made between 2014 and 2016, 22 per cent were blanket bans that failed to say what was being suppressed.

We believe this overuse is insidious and against the public interest, an argument we comprehensively set out only months ago in a series of articles examining the unfettered use of censorship and secrecy by government and their agencies, and by the judiciary.

None of the 18 recommendations in the Vincent report has been implemented. The Age calls on the Andrews government to implement them all without any further delay.

Blind justice is an unimpeachable principle.

But Justices blind to reality are undermining freedom of speech and the public’s right to know how well the system their taxes fund might be working.

The courts should no longer quixotically resort to the overuse of suppression orders. They ought to take greater responsibility for managing and instructing jurors about their duty to disregard media reports.

The jury system has proved so valuable because juries are carefully vetted, and are usually made up of a combination of intelligent, decent people with much combined life experience, not because they are not supposedly unable to read, hear or watch any associated coverage.

The case in point demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt the need for change. It involves one of the most important issues that exist, and The Age believe that the suppression order, which could lead to a contempt of court conviction were it breached, has harmed the public interest by curbing community debate for many months.

People are not only being deprived of crucial information, they are not being informed why they are not being informed.

The convicted person will be remanded in custody in February after a sentencing hearing. Online searches of the person’s name rocketed only hours after the guilty verdicts. With but a few key strokes, people were immediately directed to foreign websites reporting the full details.

The courts should lift the suppression order; the public interest in covering this case exceeds the purpose the order is clearly not serving. Enough is enough.
posted by reductiondesign at 3:48 PM on December 13, 2018 [14 favorites]


In Sweden, you can't even name a person arrested, for just this reason. "The Accused" is all you get. (NB: Mrs. Aurelian is from Sweden, and when we were visiting her family I saw such a report, and asked everyone, "Huh?")
posted by aurelian at 3:51 PM on December 13, 2018 [6 favorites]


I can understand and sympathize with the intent behind the gag order, but there is a real cost to this kind of secrecy. Are Australian juries so inevitably biased by media coverage that they can't be trusted to approach the evidence presented to them in an impartial way?

Show me a group of humans who isn't. We're all swayed by our environment while swearing up and down that it's pure coincidence.

The idea of the jury trial is that it's a group of "your peers" hearing about the case for the first time, clear of prejudice, but of course that's a legal fiction and one that's required lawyers to pick increasingly ignorant people to ensure they don't get anyone who is informed about the world. I'm not entirely sure it can be salvaged, in a world where you have incomplete but authoritative-sounding information at your fingertips.
posted by Merus at 3:52 PM on December 13, 2018 [13 favorites]


"Personally I find it frightening that so many people are okay with this sort of government censorship."
Personally I find it frightening that so many people are okay with their - imagined, vicarious, prurient, or whatever - "right" to know, that they're happy to sacrifice somebody else's fundamental right to a fair trial.
posted by Pinback at 4:18 PM on December 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


In fact, the very idea that the defence may use the availability of the news in Australia as grounds to appeal or file for a mistrial makes me uneasy about being able to read this from Australia without a VPN activated.
posted by MarchHare at 4:18 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Can I point out something that is being skipped over? It appears that the earliest that Pell will actually be taken into custody is February and even that is likely to be delayed by appeals. It is actually pretty fucking important that people who might otherwise allow their children contact with him in his role as priest and archbishop know that he is a convicted pedophile.
posted by tavella at 4:25 PM on December 13, 2018 [17 favorites]


Speaking of suppression orders...
posted by MarchHare at 4:42 PM on December 13, 2018


Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.
posted by lometogo at 4:43 PM on December 13, 2018


tavella, I wonder what the overlap is between "people who would let their children have contact with an accused paedophile" and "people who wouldn't let their children have contact with a convicted paedophile"?

Because, I can assure you, pretty much everybody in Australia knows that he's been accused…
posted by Pinback at 4:59 PM on December 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


In response to tavella, EVERYBODY knows Pell has been charged and gone to trial. That is, they know there is a possibility, even a probability, he is a pedo. They will act in that knowledge. The fact that a jury has convicted him (and that this may be overturned on appeal) will not change their actions. It will change the public discourse though. I also assume there will be some restrictions on what/where given he will be on bail.
posted by GeeEmm at 5:00 PM on December 13, 2018


At a Christmas party in Melbourne last night, everyone knew about Pell; and all but one person knew the identity of Informer 3838. (Several people also supplied the name of the prominent person to whom she is related). Both names are also widely known at my workplace. Our village whisper networks are prolific, and people are sharing the news via social media, emails, phone calls and over coffees. Suppression orders have proved toothless in the face of relentless public interest (and a deep community desire to see Pell face the music, not only for any crimes he has committed, but also for his dogged resistance to any kind of legal recourse for victims of the Church, particularly through his support for one of Australia's most prolific sex offenders).
posted by brushtailedphascogale at 5:15 PM on December 13, 2018 [8 favorites]


Can I point out something that is being skipped over? It appears that the earliest that Pell will actually be taken into custody is February and even that is likely to be delayed by appeals. It is actually pretty fucking important that people who might otherwise allow their children contact with him in his role as priest and archbishop know that he is a convicted pedophile.

I guarantee you that absolutely anyone who will get anywhere near him knows already. As archbishop, it's not like his priestly duties include walking around the parish visiting families. And I think that as a well-known suspected pedophile who is about to go on trial again, he is probably not a huge risk right now anyway. Even if he isn't smart enough to avoid any hint of further abuse, his lawyers probably are, and I doubt anyone will have the opportunity to leave their kids alone with him.
posted by the agents of KAOS at 6:17 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


I am Australian and I found out this news via metafilter. My first instinct was to post on Facebook- but I read the comments here and didn't.

It's HUGE, HUGE news. Maybe we can change the laws so that the defence can't use it as a defence?
posted by freethefeet at 6:50 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


"Maybe we can change the laws so that the defence can't use it as a defence?"
It's not a defence.

It would make selecting a jury much more difficult (it is now - but, as the fact you didn't know before reading it here shows, not impossible), and might be grounds for dropping the case, declaring a mistrial, or a subsequent appeal on the basis that the process may have been tained. But it's not a defence.
posted by Pinback at 6:59 PM on December 13, 2018


This is not some pre-trial impartiality like "the accused." This is someone who's been convicted. It's absurd that the fact this man is a convicted child molester can't be used as evidence in any future trial. Why, after all, should a jury be prejudiced by facts?

And, yes, can we start treating the Catholic Church as a criminal gang now? With all due respect to those who believe it is a holy faith, there's no reason it can't be both.
posted by rikschell at 7:06 PM on December 13, 2018 [1 favorite]


"Do you have access to the internet?"
"Yes"
"Next"

Repeat until jury roll is exhausted.


Victorian juries don't get questioned in this way. I served on a murder trial a couple of years ago. The defense was able to reject up to six jurors. They had to base their rejections only on the juror's name, occupation, and physical appearance.
posted by nnethercote at 7:24 PM on December 13, 2018 [3 favorites]


It's absurd that the fact this man is a convicted child molester can't be used as evidence in any future trial. Why, after all, should a jury be prejudiced by facts?

You can't pick and choose what cases you allow prior conviction to be allowed as evidence. Whatever happens to Pell over the course of a trial you have to be comfortable allowing to an innocent person, too. Someone who has been convicted of a crime in the past deserves to have their case heard on its own evidence, not on the shadow of something they did in the past, because somewhere there's an innocent person who would be nailed to the wall for something they've repented and sworn off, and you have account for that.
posted by Jilder at 7:43 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


I guess we're all Tommy Robinson now.

The suppression order also protects the witnesses and victims in the recently-completed case, who may not be as far removed from Mefites as you might think.
posted by prismatic7 at 7:51 PM on December 13, 2018 [7 favorites]


They had to base their rejections only on the juror's name, occupation, and physical appearance.

Wait, what? They can base a rejection based on physical appearance?
posted by aramaic at 8:24 PM on December 13, 2018


Wait, what? They can base a rejection based on physical appearance?

Well, they're in the court room with the potential jurors! And they don't have to explain why they chose to reject.

In my trial, if I recall correctly, 5 of the 6 rejections were of women jurors, probably because the victim was also a woman.
posted by nnethercote at 8:35 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Wait, what? They can base a rejection based on physical appearance?

It's not as if there's a law saying "You may reject a juror based on physical appearance", it's that there is very little opportunity to reject jurors based on anything. All they get is the name and occupation and a view of the potential juror as they walk across the court after their name is called. Jurors here aren't questioned like they are in the US.
posted by andraste at 8:45 PM on December 13, 2018 [5 favorites]


Telling the jury about past convictions is just doubling down on existing inequality in convictions. Congratulations, private school kids who got a Stern warning for underage drinking and drug use, sucks to be you, aboriginal kids who got arrested for the same activities! And it's not like Pell is suddenly *more* deserving of a conviction in next year's trial now than he was a few months ago, is it?
posted by the agents of KAOS at 9:04 PM on December 13, 2018 [16 favorites]


Am listening to the TV news at the moment (Chanel 7 because of the cricket) and they are running the story that Pell has been removed from the Pope's advisory council. Also that he has some charges against him and has been admitted to hospital. Nothing about the verdict.
posted by dangerousdan at 11:11 PM on December 13, 2018 [4 favorites]


I imagine the response to the gag order will be to run lots of stories about Pell's downfall and the leadup to the court case as if he is a convicted felon, without actually saying it. Anything that happens to him is newsworthy as the top Catholic in Australia and one of the highest-ranking Catholics in the world. They just don't have to explain why.
posted by Merus at 11:15 PM on December 13, 2018 [2 favorites]


Pell has been removed from the Pope's advisory council

I understand that happened in October.
posted by GeeEmm at 11:28 PM on December 13, 2018


Suppression orders in the State of Victoria due for overhaul.
posted by Coaticass at 11:42 PM on December 13, 2018


Telling the jury about past convictions is just doubling down on existing inequality in convictions. Congratulations, private school kids who got a Stern warning for underage drinking and drug use, sucks to be you, aboriginal kids who got arrested for the same activities!

Yup, that’s my feeling too. I served on the jury for a man accused of robbing a newsagent in Soho, and we found him guilty after lengthy deliberations. Whereupon we learned that when he committed the crime he had only been out of prison for about 48 hours and had a whole long list of previous convictions. And inevitably you think “well if I had known all that, I would have spent far less time bending over backwards to find a basis for reasonable doubt”. But apart from biassing the jury, all that stuff also made him a prime target for bias from the police. Oh look, a convenient black man who roughly fits the description and has a long criminal record, he’ll do.

It feels unfair when the legal system goes out of its way to give the best chance to a powerful man who has already had all the cards stacked in his favour, and has already been protected for decades by powerful institutions. But most people who come up before the courts are not cardinals.
posted by Bloxworth Snout at 1:25 AM on December 14, 2018 [19 favorites]


One further detail is being reported in the Catholic media:
In October, two sources close to Cardinal Pell, members of neither his legal team nor the Catholic hierarchy in Australia, told CNA that the first hearing of the case had ended in a mistrial due to a jury stalemate. One source said that jury was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of Pell.
Without more information, it's hard to know what to make of this (or even if it's true). But if the first trial ended in a hung jury, it's easier to see why the judge might want to keep the suppression order in place until the very end of the legal proceedings. (It's also a reminder that suppression orders can serve to protect the interests of witnesses, not just the interests of the accused.)
posted by verstegan at 3:19 AM on December 14, 2018 [3 favorites]


I can see the rationale for it, though it also seems futile. My biggest worry will be that this will result in an inevitable acquittal thanks to the Streisand Effect, and that the dynamic will result in certain sorts of notorious and/or high-profile figures becoming effectively legally untouchable.
posted by acb at 6:50 AM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


Jury trials are bad anyway. What, you have a dozen people who don't particularly want to be there, with little to no knowledge of the law and with all their biases intact have to judge whether or not you're guilty?

Yeah, that's going to work well. Making sure people are ignorant too of the details of any given case just stacks the deck in favour of the prosecution.
posted by MartinWisse at 10:24 AM on December 14, 2018


One of the first to publish a story on the conviction was the Daily Beast, a major news site based in New York City.

I realize that they're providing a little more context with the expectation that people from all over the world are reading this, but that's...a strange way to see the Daily Beast described.
posted by desuetude at 1:11 PM on December 14, 2018


Victorian juries don't get questioned in this way

Yeah, it's kind of troubling the way the US assumes that their way of handling juries is the right way, and possibly the only way. Personally, I find the idea of US voir dire repellent. The only thing that should disqualify you from a jury is if you know or are known to the defendant.
posted by scruss at 4:36 PM on December 14, 2018 [7 favorites]


Yeah, it's kind of troubling the way the US assumes that their way of handling juries is the right way, and possibly the only way.

I think you will find that is the default American opinion about most everything.
posted by Chrysostom at 4:38 PM on December 14, 2018 [5 favorites]


with little to no knowledge of the law

I can't speak specifically to Victoria. In New South Wales, the trial begins with the judge explaining how a trial works, the prosecuting attorney explaining what each of the charges are and what laws they say have been broken, and the defence attorney explaining what the defence's position is, in reference to the law that's just been explained to the jury. It seems like kind of an obvious thing - have the experts explain to the regular citizens what's going on, even if it's not exciting - but it's never depicted in American media so I'm guessing that's not common practice in America.
posted by Merus at 6:43 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


verstegan: "Without more information, it's hard to know what to make of this (or even if it's true)."
It's true (though it was September, not October). Pretty sure it was mentioned in the mainstream press at the time, though it wasn't front-page news (which is pretty normal for mistrials here, unless it's a second trial or happened for spectacular reasons).

Most of the noise about it at the time came from the Libertarian / Liberal Democrat side, which in Australia is (a) tiny, and (b) rather oddly heavily Catholic Conservative, at least in its Sydney heartland. And everybody (except a few too many Senate voters in NSW 😉) ignores them.
posted by Pinback at 10:31 PM on December 14, 2018 [2 favorites]


It seems like kind of an obvious thing - have the experts explain to the regular citizens what's going on, even if it's not exciting - but it's never depicted in American media so I'm guessing that's not common practice in America.

It is - it's usually done at the opening of voir dire, which isn't usually depicted.
posted by NoxAeternum at 6:08 AM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


with little to no knowledge of the law

In the UK courts, when the case is finished and prosecution and defense have made their closing speeches the judge will sum up - he'll explain all the relevant law and verdicts, what the prosecution has to prove in order of for them to find the defendant guilty and things like the concept of 'reasonable doubt' and present the key points of both sides of the case from a neutral point of view
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 7:37 AM on December 15, 2018 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it's kind of troubling the way the US assumes that their way of handling juries is the right way, and possibly the only way.

I'm not sure why what the US does or doesn't think about juries is relevant. No one in this thread seems to be pushing the view that Australia should be more like the US in its handling of juries, and based on links provided here, concerns about the use or overuse of suppression orders seem to be shared by various Australian and international figures alike.

The only thing that should disqualify you from a jury is if you know or are known to the defendant.

What about if you don't believe you are prepared to apply the law fairly, including disregarding (as much as possible) your knowledge of any previous criminal convictions of the defendant? Are Australian jurors required to attest that they can do this? Even if unrelated to voir dire, being able to attest before a judge that you can fairly uphold the law as a juror seems like a reasonable requirement, and something that should make convictions less fragile to violations of suppression orders.
posted by biogeo at 10:22 AM on December 15, 2018


"What, you have a dozen people who don't particularly want to be there, with little to no knowledge of the law and with all their biases intact have to judge whether or not you're guilty? "

In common law countries, juries are triers of fact, not of law. They make decisions about the disputed facts; the judge makes rulings about the law. Typically the judge will give the jury instructions or questions, structured according to the statute in question, broken down into several factual points the jury must decide. At no point does the jury make any decisions about the law.

Juries also act as an important brake on the biases of the justice system, because judges, cops, prosecutors, and defense attorneys who work non-stop within the criminal law system all have their own very strong biases. Jurors aren't the only biased people in the courtroom.

Studies show that juries actually do quite well at their job in the common law countries that use them. Studies also show that most people enjoy their jury service (despite everyone bitching about it in advance), feel proud to have served, and found the experience interesting and enlightening.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:46 PM on December 15, 2018 [5 favorites]


It is actually pretty fucking important that people who might otherwise allow their children contact with him in his role as priest and archbishop know that he is a convicted pedophile.

If the liberty of an accused individual were a real risk to children the prosecution would probably oppose bail or at least ask for conditions to be placed on the accused. That's not a perfect answer, but mob justice spurred by media reports has its own problems. To start with, it does literally nothing to protect the potential victims of people who don't read the papers, or the potential victims of people whose crimes aren't very newsworthy. Also, if publicity ruins a trial, and the prosecution decides not to proceed, then the accused is free to change their name and move somewhere else.

IMO the prospect of an offender reoffending after escaping conviction is a much bigger risk than the chance they will reoffend while out on bail, when any breach of the bail conditions will lead to them being banged up.
posted by Joe in Australia at 5:14 PM on December 15, 2018 [1 favorite]


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