An Australian Lawyer, a victim of sexual abuse herself, is spearheading calls for change after the High Court quashed Cardinal George Pell’s convictions of child sexual abuse on Tuesday. Ingrid Irwin, a lawyer for Survivors of sexual abuse, said changes need to be made to the justice system in order to provide victims with a voice in court.
The Ballarat lawyer said victims should be represented by a lawyer in criminal sexual assault cases and the test of proof should be lowered.
“Some people thought this case was going to be the case of vicarious justice. But really what we need to do is look at why this has happened – it has got nothing to do with the Catholic Church or George Pell,” she said. “What happened in this case is what happens in sexual assault cases 99 per cent of the time.”
She said a victim’s lawyer could be funded in the same way as Legal Aid and would help victims to make their statement to the police, provide evidence and legal argument in court, and negotiate the terms of a suppression.
“This is a simple change, it doesn’t change the police role or defence counsel role, it is just adding one more lawyer in the mix,” she said.
Ms Irwin has written to Premier Daniel Andrews, Attorney General Jill Hennessy and Victims of Crime Commissioner Fiona McCormack.
“The whole model is wrong and it just keeps producing the same result,” she said.
“Why on earth would we tell people it is still a good thing to come forward to the police when the process doesn’t work? The legislative change needs to happen first. “The Pell case is quite typical. There is nothing surprising about it at all. It is sad, I can’t stand it, but it is not surprising.”