Daily News Roundup

November 13, 2019

WEDNESDAY, November 13

The High Court has granted Cardinal George Pell special leave to challenge his conviction for child sex abuse offences which resulted in him being sentenced to six yars in jail.

The High Court appeal, which will not be until next year, will be the 78-year-olds last chance to quash the convictions after Victoria’s Court of Appeal upheld them.

In December 2018, a jury convicted Pell of sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys on the basis of evidence given by the sole surviving victim.

Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, must serve a minimum term of three years and eight months under his current sentence and has already served eight months’ jail.

However, the former adviser to the Pope is in poor health and it has previously been noted in court that he is likely to die in jail under his current sentence.

The High Court bid was the last chance Pell’s lawyers had to clear his name, after the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the jury’s verdicts in August.

The three judges were split on the decision, but the verdicts were upheld in a majority two-one ruling.

Victoria’s Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Justice Chris Maxwell found the complainant was truthful and dismissed the appeal.

But the dissenting judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, believed his account was “impossible to accept” as it “contained discrepancies [and] displayed inadequacies”.

In its submission to the High Court, the Cardinal’s legal team had argued the Court of Appeal’s majority ruling was wrong as it suggested the court required Pell to prove the offending was impossible, rather than placing the onus of proof on prosecutors.

Abuse victims’ advocate Chrissie Foster described the High Court decision as “very disappointing”.

“[Victims of abuse] will feel the same, they’ll feel very disappointed that this permission has been granted and that it’s going to continue,” she told the ABC.


As hard as it is to believe, considering the devastation and heart-break of the bushfires currently ravaging NSW and Queensland, authorities believe some fires could have been deliberately lit.

NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said investigators were treating several fires as “suspicious”, including two in Turramurra and one at Loftus, in Sydney’s south.

“It’s awful. It angers every firefighter and angers everybody in the community and our frustration,” he said.

“Clearly we are looking at those as suspicious, particularly the one in Loftus were there were multiple ignition points in the Royal National Park there.”

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said anyone who deliberately lit a fire yesterday would face the “full force of the law” and that the punishment for arson exceeded 10 years in prison.

The RFS said at least 50 homes were damaged or destroyed in blazes around the state yesterday.

It brings the total number of homes affected by fires in NSW over the past week to more than 200.

Authorities said at least 21 people were injured in yesterday’s fire, including 13 firefighters.

Meanwhile, in Queensland, firefighters are expecting conditions to worsen today with most concerned being the Darling Downs, Scenic Rim and Granite Belt regions.

There are 62 fires burning in Queensland — 11 with a “watch and act” warning in place.

But firefighters say their biggest concern is “the fires that are yet to start” at any time and without notice.

Staff at the five-star Spicers Peak Lodge resort on Queensland’s Southern Downs were told to evacuate as a bushfire approached in the early hours. 

From the Gold Coast the ABC reports that police say a discarded cigarette likely sparked the bushfire which destroyed 11 homes and the historic Binna Burra Lodge in the Gold Coast hinterland in September.

Officers said two local teenagers — aged 17 and 19 — had been questioned about the incident and detectives had determined the fire was an accident.

“A prosecution will not be commenced against those persons … they are afforded privacy just like anyone else in their position,” a QPS spokesperson was reported by the ABC as saying.

Last week, police stated they would not reveal what sparked the blaze as they feared those responsible could be vilified in the small, tight-knit community.

But after a backlash from locals, authorities have now released more details.

Binna Burra Lodge chairman Steve Noakes welcomed the police decision to be more transparent with the community.

“It’s nice to know the actual cause of it,” he said


The ABC has been accused of violating women’s privacy and compromising their safety, after circulating a documentary which included the real names, faces and personal stories of rape and domestic violence victims, without the survivors’ knowledge or consent, according to a special report by news.com.au and BuzzFeed News .

One woman who works in the media says she now has significant safety concerns, and has no way of knowing how many people have seen her name and private disclosure.

Silent No More, is a three part documentary about the #MeToo movement in Australia produced by Southern Pictures for the ABC.

It stars former newsreader turned “accidental advocate” Tracey Spicer who received more than 2000 disclosures of sexual violence and harassment, after publicly calling for women’s stories in the wake of the #MeToo hashtag going viral in October 2017.

A preview version of the documentary was distributed by the ABC’s marketing department to media outlets in early October, in anticipation of the November 25 televised launch.

But a joint investigation conducted by news.com.au and BuzzFeed News has found that the already circulating documentary has included disclosures received by Spicer regarding rape, harassment and domestic violence, without the women’s consent.

The victims – whose names and faces also appear – had no knowledge of the documentary’s existence, or that Spicer had shared their confidential disclosures with a film crew, until contacted.

One woman, Mary* who was gang-raped as a teenager, disclosed that information to Spicer in a private Facebook message sent in March 2018.

Mary’s real name, face and disclosure have appeared in the circulated preview documentary, in a scene where Spicer reads out details of the gang rape, including the specific suburb and niche industry where Mary was working at the time of the assault.

“This is the first I’ve heard about the documentary” Mary said, when contacted for comment last week.

Spicer has said she is “utterly gutted” and apologises “deeply and unreservedly to those whose names were visible” in the preview version. The ABC blamed “human error” for uploading an “early version” of the documentary to their online portal. It has since been removed.

A second woman Tiffany* who works in the media has also confirmed that she did not give permission for her name, face and private disclosure to Spicer of workplace sexual harassment to ever be shared with anyone, let alone filmed and included in a documentary.

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