Image Opinion

On 11 December 2018 Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, was found guilty of sexually abusing a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting his friend over thirty years earlier.

He was convicted on the basis of uncorroborated evidence of the alleged victim, in the face of contradictory evidence from witnesses who were with Cardinal Pell at the time.

The account of the events by the anonymous victim bear an uncanny resemblance to events in a case of child sex abuse in the United States that were given wide coverage in Australian media.

Could the uncorroborated evidence against Pell have resulted from the alleged victim confusing his memory of the reported US case with his own past?

The sentencing of Cardinal George Pell on 13 March 2019 to six years jail on charges of child sexual abuse raises many questions.

What is happening to the requirement to prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt? In Australian jurisprudence, if a reasonable explanation of the evidence could indicate the defendant's innocence, a not guilty verdict is required.

How could a jury find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt, on the basis of the uncorroborated evidence of a single witness, especially when multiple witnesses provided evidence that Cardinal Pell could not have committed the alleged offences?

The huge publicity in recent times of formerly hidden sexual and physical child abuse and encouragement for people to report such abuse has given rise to an avalanche of reports.

It is now time to consider whether some of the allegations may be false and whether some innocent people are being wrongly punished. Human fallibility means that it is always possible for some offenders go free and for some innocent people to be unjustly treated.  The question is whether the current balance is appropriate.

Allegations of decades-old abuse of children raise particular difficulties. Often there is no physical evidence and no corroboration. This important issue is addressed in a recent book edited by Dr Ros Burnett, a Senior Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology, University of Oxford.

Children expressing confusion about their gender identity has grown extraordinarily in recent years.  Why the sudden rise in the number of boys believing they are girls and vice versa?

Medical intervention can involve puberty blocking drugs, chemical castration by administration of cross-sex hormones, and irreversible surgical modification of genitals.  Those having such transgender "treatment" then require lifelong drugs.

Dr John Whitehall, Professor of Paediatrics at Western Sydney University, questions the need for such massive medical intervention.  The evidence is that most children experiencing “gender dysphoria” grow out of it through puberty, if parents gently support normal development while they watch and wait.

How common are these problems and are they associated with mental problems?  What does medical "treatment" involve?  Dr Whitehall answers these and many other questions on this controversial issue.