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Both sides claim win as Pell cleared

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney, George Pell, and the man who accused him of sex abuse both claimed vindication yesterday after a former Supreme Court judge ruled he was not satisfied that the complaint against the Archbishop had been established.

Alec Southwell made the ruling after hearings over five days into allegations that Dr Pell had sexually assaulted the man when he was an 11-year-old altar boy at a camp at Smiths Beach, Phillip Island, in the early 1960s.

The absence of forensic evidence due to the 40-year interval since the alleged offence, the complainant's credibility, lack of corroborative evidence and Dr Pell's sworn denial of the accusations were key factors in the inquiry's conclusion, Mr Southwell said.

Dr Pell, who strenuously denied the allegations, said the finding had cleared him. "I am grateful to God that this ordeal is over and that the inquiry has exonerated me of all allegations," he said.

The complainant, 53, who cannot be named, was delighted with the result. The commissioner had found him to have been truthful, he said. "We have been vindicated," added his lawyer, Peter Ward, of Galbally and O'Bryan.

The Age


Sydney Catholic lawyer Geoff Cahill, who has consistently challenged the effectiveness of the Towards Healing terms of reference of the enquiry, has said that decision "leaves the whole issue open for controversial interpretation".

He pointed out what he believes is the significance of the "telling" words of the presiding Chairman, former Justice Southwell. Southwell said that the complainant "gave the impression that he was speaking honestly from an actual recollection". Cahill says this indicates the judgment was not definitive, and that it "can only enhance public concern".

"This is not exoneration for the Archbishop," he said. "It only continues the controversy".

Mr Cahill repeated his previous assertion that "the only way to test guilt or innocence is by a professionally appropriate police investigation and a proper court hearing".

In yesterday's statement, he called on the Church "to immediately hand over all the documents and transcripts of this closed door Church run matter to the Police".

Geoff Cahill

Statement by Archbishop Pell on findings of inquiry
Judge clears archbishop: 'I have been exonerated' (Catholic Weekly)
Exonerated, not forgotten (Sydney Morning Herald)
Investigator finds no proof of sexual abuse by Pell (Courier-Mail)
Pell cleared, forgives his accuser (Daily Telegraph)
Pell exonerated over abuse claims (Sydney Morning Herald)
Australia's leading Catholic cleared of abuse (
Australia's most senior Catholic cleric cleared of abusing boy (Ananova)
Pell charges not proved (News Interactive)
The Pell Inquiry (The Age)
Pell cleared of any wrongdoing (ABC The World Today)
Pell back to work as church inquiry finishes (ABC)
Pell cleared of sex claims
Pell charges not proved (Herald-Sun)
Australia's most senior Catholic cleric cleared of sex abuse allegations (AP)
Pell cleared of sex allegations (AAP)
Oz church head cleared of abuse claims (AFP)
Pell sex complaint dismissed, but accuser feels vindicated (The Australian - payment required)
Australian archbishop cleared of abuse charge (Independent Catholic News)
Inquiry Clears Archbishop Pell on Sex-Abuse Charges (Catholic World News)
Australia archbishop cleared of abuse (BBC)

15 Oct 2002