Witness J says he is glad the legal process is over, but the saga does not define him
Australian Associated Press – The Guardian
Cardinal George Pell leaves Barwon prison on Tuesday after his historical sexual assault convictions in the case brought by Witness J were overturned by the high court. Photograph: Quinn Rooney/Getty Images
The man at the heart of the failed case against Cardinal George Pell has issued a rallying cry to sexual abuse survivors.
He said he would hate to think that anyone might not report to the police because of his outcome.
Witness J said he was glad the tumultuous legal process was over and that while darkness was never far away, the legal saga would not define him.
He issued a statement through his lawyers the day after the high court acquitted Pell of sexual assault charges.
The man said he respected the decision and accepted the outcome.
But he called on survivors not to be discouraged about going to the authorities.
“I would hate to think that one outcome of this case is that people are discouraged from reporting to the police,” he said.
“I would like to reassure child sexual abuse survivors that most people recognise the truth when they hear it.
“They know the truth when they look it in the face. I am content with that.”
Witness J, who cannot be identified, said he understood why the cardinal’s convictions were quashed.
“I respect the decision of the high court. I accept the outcome,” he said.
“It is difficult in child sexual abuse matters to satisfy a criminal court that the offending has occurred beyond the shadow of a doubt.
“It is a very high standard to meet – a heavy burden.”
Witness J thanked the police and Victoria’s Office of Public Prosecutions, saying he had felt well-supported throughout the legal process.
He also spoke of what he had been through and his determination to find joy in his life.
“My journey has been long and I am relieved it is over,” he said. “I have my ups and downs. The darkness is never far away. I am OK. I hope that everyone who has followed this case is OK.
“This case does not define me. I am not the abuse I suffered as a child.
“I am a man who came forward for my friend, who, sadly is no longer with us.”
Pell was charged by Victoria police after Witness J came forward in 2014 alleging he and another choirboy had been sexually abused at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.
That boy, now in his 30s, gave evidence in court, revealing he felt compelled to come forward after the death of the other boy.
A jury convicted Pell of five charges in December 2018 after an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict.
Victoria’s court of appeal upheld the convictions last year, but the high court verdict means Pell is a free man.