Judge Who Jailed George Pell Reveals Why He Let TV Cameras In His Court
After copping mountains of criticism over his sentence given to George Pell on child sex offences, Chief Judge Peter Kidd has now spoken out on why he gave media unprecedented access into his court.
In an interview on The Project on Tuesday, Kidd told host Waleed Aly that he believed in the principle of open justice, and thought it better for people to hear the reasons for conviction directly from his mouth -- rather than filtered through the media.
"My decision to go live in that particular case with my sentence was driven by the public interest," Kidd said of his decision to allow cameras to broadcast inside the court in March when Pell was sentenced to six years jail.
"So that if they were to, as they would, make a judgment about my particular sentence, which everybody's entitled to do as part of the democratic process, then it was important that they heard those reasons in their entirety from me. Not distorted or manipulated in any way by commentators or politicians."
Pell's conviction has since been upheld by a panel of judges on appeal, and a further High Court appeal is underway.
But Kidd's sentence -- making Pell the highest-ranking Catholic official to be convicted on child sex charges -- made headlines across the world.
The sentence came after a jury found Pell guilty on five charges, in December 2018.
The cardinal was found guilty on one count of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act, after the jury deliberated for three days.
Many conservative commentators and broadcasters railed against the conviction and the sentence, standing by Pell in the face of the guilty verdict.
Kidd said talkback radio hosts and other media voices are "one of the challenges that we're up against", and said sometimes legal decisions can be "misrepresented".
This was part of his reasoning behind allowing TV cameras inside the courtroom to film Pell's sentencing.
"I don’t know whether its a question of countering it as such. At the end of the day I can't control the media, I can't control the talkback radio or what a particular politician might say, for example, on the steps of parliament house after a particular sentencing decision," the judge said.
"What I can do, and what we can do collectively, is to make our work more accessible and to make our reasons more accessible, so that over time, the public develops a deeper understanding and knowledge of how the process works."
Kidd also took a gentle jab at media coverage generally of the legal process, saying the public may not get a complete picture of the system if they rely solely on TV or newspaper reports.
"The media unsurprisingly are looking for a newsworthy story, they want the headline. What they don’t do is cover all the other cases that we do, which don’t have the headline. So if the public, if the community are getting all their information from the media by necessity it’s selective and grossly incomplete," Kidd said.
"I’m not about having a fight the media. I understand they’ve got their role to do, but if you want to be educated about the judicial system and in particular the criminal justice system, you’re not going to get that from the media."
Watch Waleed Aly's full interview with Chief Judge Peter Kidd on The Project from 6.30pm Tuesday night.
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