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The Conviction of Archbishop Wilson – Further Reflections

The media cannot reasonably be expected to report every piece of evidence. This means that any assessment based on media reports is necessarily tentative. It is entirely possible that any one media outlet may have omitted some critical point. But it is unlikely that every major outlet should fail to report the same argument or piece of evidence which was essential to the court’s findings. So it is possible to have a reasonable and careful discussion of any court finding, provided some care is taken.

The SMH report quoted in my earlier article is a fair summary of what was required to be proven by the prosecution before the defendant could be found guilty as charged. A reasonable doubt at any step should have resulted in a finding of not guilty. The finding of guilty is an assertion that each step is proven. A key step is the magistrate’s acceptance of the accuracy of the boys’ reports of conversations they allege took place over forty years ago.

One of my concerns about this is that the magistrate seemed to have no awareness of research conducted over the last half century into the construction, development and malleability of memory. Given that this is the single most important factor in his arriving at a guilty verdict, he had a responsibility to familiarise himself with this now substantial body of knowledge. It might be suggested that it was up to the defence team to draw this material to the magistrate’s attention, and it is surprising and disappointing they did not.

Trial histories are full of examples of witnesses, often multiple witnesses, swearing that x was what was said, y was what happened, and z was the person who did it, with guilty verdicts being delivered on this evidence, and sometimes, in the US, death sentences being imposed, only to find later through audio or video recorded evidence, or DNA or other scientific evidence, or other witnesses, that x was not what was said, y was not what happened, and z was out of the country at the time.

However, even if there were conversations and they took place substantially as the boys remember, it is possible that then Fr Wilson did not understand what was being said to him. Even in everyday conversation there is often a substantial gulf between what the sender intends, and what the receiver hears and understands.

To give an example, I have a close friend who is a teacher. An autistic girl at the school at which she works developed an attachment to her, and became her intermittent shadow. She would often chatter as the teacher was at work, on yard duty, marking, preparing lessons. Often the teacher listened attentively, but just as often, her attention was necessarily elsewhere. On one occasion the child’s parents withdrew her from the school, claiming (quite reasonably as it turned out) that she was being bullied. School authorities said they had not been aware of this, but the parents’ response was that her daughter had told them she had reported it to the teacher, my friend. My friend was horrified. She had no memory of this at all. Was it possible she had simply tuned the child out, or had been so distracted by other things that she did not hear or absorb what was said?

This was reported only a few weeks after the conversation was supposed to have taken place. Conversations allegedly involving Fr Wilson were reported between thirty and forty years after they were supposed to have taken place. This length of time is another confounding factor. Statutes of limitations are not a technicality. The more time goes by, the harder it is for an accused person to remember where he was and what was said and done, harder to find diaries or other documents or witnesses who would be able to show he was elsewhere. The more time goes by, the more cautious a court needs to be, and the more it needs explicitly to recognise the additional difficulties faced by an accused person in finding and presenting exculpatory evidence. If anything, this obligation becomes greater rather than less, the more odious the alleged crime.

On the information so far publicly available, Magistrate Robert Stone attended to the preceding factors in a cursory if not frivolous fashion, and proceeded directly to considering the credibility of Archbishop Wilson. Even if he was entirely justified in accepting the boys’ accounts as accurate in every detail, and in putting aside the difficulties faced by Archbishop Wilson in responding to events alleged to have occurred so long before, he made two sets of comments which suggest this assessment was not entirely objective.

Firstly, as noted above, his reprimand to Archbishop Wilson for what Stone described as a “technical” objection, that is Wilson’s comment, when asked, that he would not make any judgement about the guilt or otherwise of any person before that guilt had been proven. This was reported in the media, and seems to have been taken by Stone, to mean that Wilson would not have taken allegations of abuse seriously, and would not have acted on them, because he would not have believed them anyway. But that is a very long way from what Wilson actually said. A sensible process is to listen carefully and respectfully to allegations of abuse, to follow up and investigate carefully, to report to police or other authorities if appropriate, but to withhold final judgement until all the facts have been thoroughly and fairly considered. That has been the practice of Catholic authorities for many years. It ought to be the practice of any investigating body, and of the courts.

Secondly, and equally disturbingly, is Stone’s dismissal of Archbishop Wilson’s claim that he had never heard, directly and to him as the first point of contact, any complaint of sexual abuse. Stone’s disbelief of this claim is not based on any evidence, but on Stone’s prejudices. I was a clergyman for thirty years. I never in that time had made to me personally, any complaint of sexual abuse by another minister. I knew complaints were made, and over the period of my ministry three of these involved people I knew; I know hundreds of clergy. I had one complaint made to me about sexual abuse by a family member (something vastly more common than abuse by clergy) which I reported, and later in my ministry I had multiple complaints of emotional and verbal abuse by a senior clergyman, which I acted upon to the best of my ability so as to be fair both the complainants and to him. But not once a direct complaint of sexual abuse by a priest or minister. It seems odd to me that Stone should have been so adamant that this was impossible or even unusual.

It is accepted in criminal law that if there is a reasonable explanation of the evidence that is consistent with the innocence of the accused, then a verdict of “Not guilty” must be returned. Those responsible for delivering that verdict, whether a jury or a judge or magistrate, have a duty to keep this consciously in mind at every stage of proceedings. Magistrate Stone did not do so. There are reasonable alternatives to his conclusions at every link in the chain of reasoning. On the available evidence, this case should not even have been brought to trial. If Archbishop Wilson were not a high profile Catholic leader, it almost certainly would not have been.

To summarise, I would not find Archbishop Wilson guilty even on the balance of probabilities, and Stone’s finding of “proven,” that is, guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, goes so far beyond the available facts as to seem absurd.

There is no justice for victims in sending the wrong people to jail.

Almost half of Australians are being conned into taking supplements, vitamins

Conned is the right word. If you are wasting money on vitamins or supplements, just stop it. Unless recommended by a doctor for a specific condition or deficiency, they are not doing you any good, and may be doing you harm.

Vitamins and supplements are a massive scam
Vitamins and supplements are a massive scam

From New Daily:

“The billions of dollars almost half of Australians are now spending on vitamin supplements may as well be flushed down the toilet, as experts warn there is little evidence they have any health benefits.

About 43 per cent of Australians are taking supplements, new research by Roy Morgan found – the most popular brands being Nature’s Own, Swisse, Blackmores, Berocca and Cenovis.

Some of the current trends include vitamin D, fish oil, vitamin C and multivitamins.

But nutritional epidemiology expert Dr Amanda Patterson, of the University of Newcastle, said consumers are being “ripped off”.

“We have very expensive urine,” she told The New Daily, a reference to supplements passing straight through the body.

The complementary medicine industry in Australia generated $4.7 billion in revenue in 2016 and it’s growing.”

The Ridiculous Injustice of the Conviction of Archbishop Philip Wilson

In a case that hung entirely on circumstantial evidence and which saw the veracity of ancient recollections accepted by the bench,  Archbishop Philip Wilson was found guilty of covering up sexual abuse by a fellow priest. If Wilson isn’t planning an appeal, he should.

A New South Wales court on Tuesday found Roman Catholic Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson guilty of covering up sexual abuse of boys by a priest he knew forty years ago. It was alleged and accepted by the court he had been informed by two separate victims in the 1970s that parish priest James Fletcher had sexually assaulted them, and had failed to act on that information. At the time, Fr Wilson was a junior priest who shared a house with Fletcher. By failing to act at the time, and by failing to give evidence of the information he held at the time of Fletcher’s trial in 2004 and 2005, Wilson was found to have covered up Fletcher’s repeat sexual offences.

Magistrate Robert Stone said that he had been convinced by “the number of people who have complained, and weight and quality of these people”  and that “The whole of the evidence as to sexual abuse from all families provides material that a person would believe.”

Indeed. No one doubts that Fletcher abused the complainants, or that he was a deceptive and selfish individual who betrayed his church and vulnerable people in his care, and who caused great harm to his victims. Anyone with a heart could not help but be saddened by the harm he did, and supportive of his victims, who were entirely right to feel betrayed and angry.

But that was not the question.

The question was, when was Fr Philip Wilson made aware of the abuse committed by James Fletcher against Peter Creigh?  Creigh first told his family about the abuse he had suffered in 2009, more than thirty years after the abuse took place, five years after Fletcher’s trial for abuse of other boys at about the same time, and three years after Fletcher’s death. When asked why he not mentioned the abuse before, he asserted he told the priest who shared the house with Fletcher. That priest was Philip Wilson. When questioned later, a second victim, un-named at this stage, also claimed to have told Wilson about the abuse at the time it occurred in the mid-Seventies.

At this point it may be appropriate to note the vitriol directed at Archbishop Wilson because he said, again in response to questions, that he did not make assumptions about anyone’s guilt or innocence on the basis of accusations only, but preferred to wait until the matter had been proven in court. This is, of course, the position that any sensible person, including police, journalists, and the courts, should take. But Wilson has not only been abused for this in the popular media, but was also, bizarrely, reprimanded by the presiding Magistrate in his case. Reprimanded for taking a view which is exactly the objective and careful view a magistrate would take.

In 2009, Creigh told his family about the abuse. In 2010 he wrote to his local bishop. He and the bishop (not Wilson) then met, and the bishop subsequently wrote to Creigh outlining what support the diocese was able to offer. Two and half years later, in 2013, Creigh was interviewed by police, and alleged that he told Wilson about the abuse at the time. Another person known to Creigh was subsequently interviewed by police, and when questioned, made a similar claim. Since he was apprised of these claims in 2014, Archbishop’ Wilson’s position has been exactly the same: he insists he has no memory of those conversations ever having taken place.

What really happened? There are a number of possibilities.

First, the two boys, now men, have clear and accurate memories of conversations they had forty years ago with a priest whom they correctly identify as now-Archbishop Wilson. This is the position Magistrate Robert Stone says is proven.

At the other end of the scale, the two men are simply lying about having told Archbishop Wilson, possibly to get back at the church they believe failed them, or to enhance the size of any compensation payout they may receive.

Or they may not have told anyone at the time, but as they have gone over and over in their minds the events at that time, have genuinely come to believe they did do so. Or they may have told someone, but misidentified who that person was. Or they may genuinely remember having had conversations with a person who was indeed Fr Wilson, and later come to believe that they must have talked to him about the abuse that occurred around the same time.

Memory is a strange thing, and as cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus has demonstrated, the merest word or question or suggestion can create “memories” which the person holding them absolutely believes are the accurate recall of real events.

So again, what really happened? Further, was the court’s faith in memory misplaced? As the Sydney Morning Herald noted in reporting the guilty verdict against Wilson:

It was a circumstantial case and the prosecution had to overcome a number of significant hurdles in their bid to prove Archbishop Wilson concealed the sexual abuse allegations against Father Fletcher.

Not only did Crown prosecutor Gareth Harrison have to prove that Mr Creigh told Archbishop Wilson about the sexual abuse in 1976, but that Archbishop Wilson remembered it and had a belief that the allegations were true between 2004 and 2006, after Fletcher had been charged with child sex offences and before his death in jail.

They also had to prove that Archbishop Wilson knew or believed he had information which might be of assistance in securing the prosecution of Fletcher for the sexual abuse offences against Mr Creigh.

While I have a passing acquaintance with Archbishop Wilson, and acknowledging that my view is subjective, it is my belief that had he known of the alleged offences, he would have brought them to the attention of his bishop and not hesitated to come forward to give evidence later when Fletcher went to trial. Someone who knows the complainants may take the view that they are people of courage and integrity, and that they would not have made the claims they have unless they were sure they were true. It is entirely possible for both of these things to be correct.

What is not possible, as I see it, is to reach the conclusion that one option is proven beyond reasonable doubt. Yet that is exactly the opinion reached by Magistrate Stone. Many will look upon his decision not as an end in itself but as the basis for an appeal.

Matterhorn Ascent

Well, not quite; that is two years away. But it is never too early to start training. These are a few photos of a little light limestone rock climbing on cliffs near Pennington Bay, on Kangaroo Island.

Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.
Limestone cliffs near Pennington Bay, Kangaroo Island, South Australia.

I don’t have any doubt about my climbing ability. But I need to get accustomed to the heights and drop offs. I will spend some time at a climbing wall in Adelaide this weekend to test some skills.

But I am sixty this year (how the heck did that happen?) and time is ticking. If I don’t do Mt Blanc and the Matterhorn soon, I will run out of time.

 

 

Leftists; Just Keep Shouting “Racist!”

What a nasty piece of photo-shopping this is:

Malicious fake Make American White Again photo-shop
Malicious fake Make American White Again photo-shop

This is the original pic:

Make America Great Again
Make America Great Again.

It is hard to imagine the kind of steamed up hatefulness that would think it acceptable and moral to defame ordinary people in this way, and almost equally difficult to understand so deep a need to believe other people are racist that someone could re-post this filth without checking it.

Meanwhile, in the real world, Trump receives the Ellis Island award for service to inner city black youth, takes racist local authorities to court to allow blacks and Jews to use his clubs, and yesterday, comforted and honoured the family of a black police officer killed on duty.

Ellis Island award to Trump for services to inner city black youth
Ellis Island award to Trump for services to inner city black youth.
Trump comforts Adrianna Valoy,, mother of police officer Miosotis Familia
Trump comforts Adrianna Valoy, mother of police officer Miosotis Familia.

Pretty much all the malignant left can do is to shout “racist” even louder, and when they can’t find any evidence of actual racism, invent it. That is real hate-mongering.

The Perfect Holiday

Thinking ahead to 2020 and my perfect holiday.

800 days from today till the opening of the 2020 Wagner Festival in Bayreuth.

From there to Oberammergau for the Passion Play.

Then to Zermat for a few days, on the gondola and up the Matterhorn to at least the Hörnli Hut. I am pretty fit, but not an experienced climber. I would not make it to the summit.

Looking towards the Matterhorn
Looking towards the Matterhorn

Then to Lourdes, from there to St Jean Pied de Port and the Camino, with a few days in Santiago de Compostela before heading home.

It is doable, I think, and with cheap hotels and train travel, and walkng the Camino, would not be too expensive.

Can anyone who has done any of these things offer any advice?

Bashing Emergency Service Workers is Not OK

Unless you are a woman who might be inconvenienced by having to serve a jail sentence. Or at least, that is the impression given by a recent decision in a Victorian court.

State law requires a mandatory minimum jail term of six months for assaulting an emergency service worker. This didn’t bother Judge Barbara Cotterell. Two days ago Judge Cotterell released two ghastly women who bashed an ambulance officer/paramedic to the point where he had to undergo three separate operations and has not been able to work since. Judge Cotterell said the women had had a hard time, were trying their best, and she couldn’t see what point would be served by sending them to jail.

I am not the only one who thinks this is disgusting.

The contemptible Amanda Warren, demonstrating her sorrow at having bashed ambulance officer Paul Judd
The contemptible Amanda Warren, demonstrating her sorrow at having bashed ambulance officer Paul Judd

Community outrage is growing over the decision by County Court judge Barbara Cotterell to uphold an appeal by the women, previously jailed by a magistrate for eight months and four months, with the paramedic injured by the women saying he felt “that justice hasn’t been done”.

On Tuesday, paramedic Paul Judd, who suffered injuries needing three operations and still can’t work after he was bashed by the two drunken women in Reservoir in 2016, said he was appalled that his attackers had “gotten away” with their crime.

Why is Britain Selling Weapons to our Enemies?

Erdogan is no friend to the West. He is a violent, oppressive dictator, and a supporter of terrorism.

Prime Minister May knows this; hence the “stern warning.” Is the UK so desperate for money it has to resort to selling powerful modern weapons to the enemies of civilization?

Turkey is a serial human rights offender and supporter of terrorism. Why sell them weapons?
Turkey is a serial human rights offender and supporter of terrorism. Why sell them weapons?

Iran May Name Bribe Recipients

Senior advisors in Iran are threatening to name Western officials to whom bribes were paid to seal the Iran peace deal.

Oh Yes. Please do. We all know which side of politics has absolutely nothing to fear from those revelations.

Of course, if Iran does release the names of officials and politicians who received, ah …  gifts, to ease the so-called Iran peace deal, Iran will be punishing those who made the deal, and helping those who broke it. Either they don’t care, or they are not very bright. Probably both.

Iran threatens to name bribe recipients after deal break
Iran threatens to name bribe recipients after deal break

Hurricane Harvey Scares – Zombie Science

A few political hacks masquerading as scientists released a paper on 23rd April called “Hurricane Harvey: Links to Ocean Heat Content and Climate Change Adaptation.” You can find the paper at the American Geophysical Union with the breathless headline “Record Breaking Ocean Heat Fuelled Hurricane Harvey.

One of the authors of this travesty is Keith “Travesty” Trenberth, so called by James Delingpole, who notes that Keith was one of the inner circle whose manipulations of data were exposed in the release of the climategate emails, amongst which was found this gem:

The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment and it is a travesty that we can’t.

(Hence his nickname Kevin ‘Travesty’ Trenberth. The real travesty of that email, of course, is that what he’s shown clearly doing there is not science but politics. A scientist would see the “missing heat” issue not as a “travesty” but as an opportunity to reassess the now-falsified models in the light of new evidence.)

In fact Hurricane Harvey had nothing to with changes in global temperature, and the moderate and entirely natural changes in climate over the last century have not made weather more extreme.

No increase in hurricane intensity over the twentieth century
No increase in hurricane intensity over the twentieth century

As Joe Bastardi notes:

Hurricane Harvey is tied for 14th. Look at the storm above it, Hazel. Now, let me ask you: Which is the more extreme as far as deviation from normal with pressure, which is a good metric to objectively evaluate how extreme a tropical cyclone is — a storm that hit in mid-October in North Carolina, or one that hit the central Texas coast in late August? Let’s also look at Harvey in relation to other hurricanes in Texas. Behind it is the 1915 Galveston hurricane. That is the lesser of the two evils, because the 13th right above Harvey is the 1900 Galveston hurricane that killed 6,000-12,000 people. And right above that one is the Freeport hurricane of 1932. Notice when these are occurring. Then there is the 1916 cyclone in Texas — just a year after the 1915 Galveston hurricane — and Carla in 1961. Again, this all occurred over 50 years ago. Then there is the 1886 Indianola hurricane. They are all hitting in the area that Harvey hit. So the question becomes, if those same storms, almost all stronger, from many years ago hit today, would they be a sign of climate change? Why is Harvey — and not to downplay the storm, but it was one of many and less intense than most — a sign the climate is changing, but these other storms would not be?

 

To Reduce Debt, Cut Spending

It seems a simple enough solution; to reduce debt, reduce spending. This graph from Australia’s IPA (Institute of Public Affairs) shows just how effective a one percent reduction in overall spending would be, wiping out the deficit in the current year, and halving gross debt in two years:

A 1% reduction in spending would halve Australia’s gross debt in just two years.

Instead, we have another budget of the type to which we have become accustomed over the last fifteen years. Promises of a return to surplus sometime in the future if the wind blows in the right direction, and increased debt in the short term. Unless government develops a willingness to stand up to the insatiable demands of special interest groups and the welfare lobby in particular, nothing will change.

Despite what some economists and journalists may tell you, this is real debt; real goods and services are being purchased and they really have to be paid for. Someone has to pay for them. If we don’t, our children will. Older people will, as they find there is no money left to fund pensions and health care.

Next Year in Jerusalem

Firstly, that very strange girl from Israel won the Eurovision Song Contest. Not a song or a style that appeals to me, but nonetheless, well done. This means next year’s Contest will be held in Jerusalem. And that is great.

And, today marks the day when the United States finally does what its Congress voted to do twenty years ago, but which no President before Trump has had the courage to do; move its embassy to the  capital of Israel, which is and has been for the last 3,000 years, Jerusalem.

Workers prepare the stage for the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.
Workers prepare the stage for the opening of the new US Embassy in Jerusalem.

Eight hundred guests, including foreign envoys, religious and business leaders, academics and journalists, are expected to attend the opening of the new embassy today, Monday 14th of May 2018.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem. May all who bless you prosper!

Terrifying New Data on Sea Level Rise

Terrifying to climate alarmists, that is.

Sea level has been rising for the last 20,000 years, since the start of the blessed global warming that brought us into the light, warmth and buzzing with life bio-diversity of the current inter-glacial period. The most rapid increases in sea level occurred between fifteen and eight thousand years ago. With minor fluctuations, the rate of sea level rise has been declining since then.

Sea level rise over the last 20,000 years
Sea level rise over the last 20,000 years

Despite a modest increase in global temperature over the last one hundred and fifty years, and a modest increase in atmospheric CO2 in the last seventy years, there has been no change in the rate of sea level rise.

Despite shrieks of terror from climate alarmists, there has been no change in the rate of sea level rise 1855 to the present.
Despite shrieks of terror from climate alarmists, there has been no change in the rate of sea level rise from 1855 to the present.