High Court of Australia

Pell v The Queen [2020] HCA 12

7 Apr 2020

Case Number: M112/2019

Before

KIEFEL CJ, BELL, GAGELER, KEANE, NETTLE, GORDON, EDELMAN JJ

Catchwords

Criminal law – Sexual offences against children – Appeal against conviction by jury on ground that verdict unreasonable or cannot be supported having regard to whole of evidence – Where prosecution case wholly dependent upon acceptance of truthfulness and reliability of complainant's account – Where jury assessed complainant's evidence as credible and reliable – Where witnesses gave unchallenged evidence of specific recollections, practices and routines inconsistent with acceptance of complainant's account ("unchallenged inconsistent evidence") – Where Court of Appeal required to take into account forensic disadvantage experienced by applicant – Whether prosecution negatived reasonable possibility that applicant did not commit offences – Whether Court of Appeal required applicant to establish offending impossible to raise reasonable doubt – Whether unchallenged inconsistent evidence required jury, acting rationally, to have entertained doubt as to applicant's guilt.

Criminal practice – Appeal – Video evidence – Where evidence of complainant and other witnesses recorded – Where Court of Appeal viewed recorded witness testimony – Whether proper discharge of appellate court's function necessitated review of recorded witness testimony.

Words and phrases – "beyond reasonable doubt", "compounding improbabilities", "credibility and reliability", "function of the appellate court", "function of the jury", "impossibility", "improbability of events", "invariable practice", "jury's advantage in seeing and hearing the witnesses", "negatived the reasonable possibility", "opportunity witnesses", "realistic opportunity for the offending to have occurred", "religious ritual", "routines and practices", "significant forensic disadvantage", "significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted", "solid obstacles to conviction", "standard and burden of proof", "unchallenged evidence", "uncorroborated", "video-recordings of the witnesses at trial".

Crimes Act 1958 (Vic) – ss 45(1), 47(1).

Criminal Procedure Act 2009 (Vic) – ss 276(1)(a), 378, 379(b)(i).

Judiciary Act 1903 (Cth) – s 37.

Jury Directions Act 2015 (Vic) – ss 4A, 39.
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