“My journey has been long and I am relieved that it is over,” he said in the statement through his lawyer Dr Vivian Waller. “I have my ups and downs. The darkness is never far away. Despite the stress of the legal process and public controversy I have tried hard to keep myself together. I am OK. I hope that everyone who has followed this case is OK.”
As well as assuring supporters he is OK, Witness J shared his acceptance of the High Court judgment, which acquitted Pell of his child sexual abuse charges due to a lack of evidence – despite a jury finding Pell guilty in 2018 after Witness J gave credible evidence.
“I respect the decision of the High Court. I accept the outcome,” he said in the powerful statement. “I understand their view that there was not enough evidence to satisfy the Court beyond all reasonable doubt that the offending occurred… 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. I understand why criminal cases must be proven beyond all reasonable doubt. No-one wants to live in a society where people can be imprisoned without due and proper process. This is a basic civil liberty. But the price we pay for weighting the system in favour of the accused is that many sexual offences against children go unpunished.”
Not everyone has been as gracious and accepting of the High Court decision as Witness J. Thousands of people took to social media yesterday to share their disgust and dismay at the ruling and Australia’s legal system.
Journalist Lucie Morris-Marr, who cover the Pell case, wrote on Twitter: “The essential question today is what is the point of the jury system? I watched up close as the jury that found Pell guilty worked diligently, writing notes, sending questions. They took three and a half days to deliver a verdict. They too, like many involved, must be devastated.”
She added, “My deep fear is this judgment will stop those with allegations of child abuse coming forward… The judgment effectively believes the word of the powerful man.”
In his statement, Witness J, echoed the same worries: “It remains important that everyone who can report to the police does so. I would hate to think that one outcome of this case is that people are discouraged from reporting to the police. I would like to reassure child sexual abuse survivors that most people recognise the truth when they hear it.”
As well as thanking the police and office of public prosecutions for their work and support, Witness J ended his statement with a message of hope.
“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. I am a man doing my best to be a loving dad, partner, son, brother and friend. I am doing my best to find and hold joy in my life and to provide a safe and loving home for my family,” he wrote, with undeniable humanity.
Witness J, we thank you for your strength, courage and dignity.