One of the most remarkable things about perhaps the most sensational trial in Australia in the past decade is that Australians are forbidden to know who the plaintiff even was. Whatever else you may say about her, Brittany Higgins at least named herself long before the man she accused was. But the person who falsely accused Cardinal George Pell? We are not allowed to know.
Not officially, anyway. But, a bit like “Lawyer X” before the name suppression was lifted, legal and media gossips know very well who “Witness J” really is. And they’re taking note of some interesting revelations made via his LinkedIn CV.
From the beginnings of the Pell case, not a few observers noted the single-minded determination of Victoria Police officials to “get Pell”. Before any complaints were actually made against the cardinal, VicPol had already assembled a task force whose sole purpose was to fish for accusations. If that wasn’t suspicious enough, police pursued the case even though the Director of Public Prosecutions rejected their brief of evidence twice.
As Keith Windschuttle writes, “It looked like a stitch-up from the start”.
Much of the public debate has focused on VicPol’s most recent commissioners, Graham Ashton and Shane Patton. But the choirboy’s CV has inadvertently revealed a link to another, earlier Victorian top cop.
According to his CV, Witness J was unemployed for the entire time from March 2014 to June 2019 – a period which more than covers the timeline of his accusation to police, his evidence at committal hearings, the trial itself, and Pell’s conviction. However, after his evidence had done its work and put Pell in jail, his accuser was rescued from the dole queue and given a full-time job and a salary.
“Witness J’s” rescuer was none other than former Victorian Police Commissioner, Simon Overland. This brings us back, as it happens, to “Lawyer X”, now known to be lawyer Nicola Gobbo.
Simon Overland was appointed Victoria’s Deputy Police Commissioner in 2006. Following the debacle of the period when Christine Nixon was Chief Commissioner, the Brumby Labor government appointed Overland to replace her in 2009. However, after a report by the police ombudsman accused him of doctoring crime statistics to support Labor at a time when law and order had become a big election issue, Overland resigned in 2011. Gangland lawyer and secret police informer Nicola Gobbo in evidence to Victoria’s Royal Commission into the Management of Police Informants (the Lawyer X commission) described Overland as being “evil, corrupt and dishonest” in his dealings with her.
But, government bureaucracy being something of a lobster pot, Overland soon found another cosy public sinecure. In 2017, Overland became CEO of the Whittlesea council, on Melbourne’s northern suburban fringe. Two years later, as the Royal Commission was in progress, the council sacked him.
Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews was furious and immediately moved to take revenge on the council. He intervened first by firing his own responsible minister and intra-party factional rival, Adem Somyurek, and then appointing himself Minister for Local Government in his place. Premier Andrews then sacked the entire Whittlesea Council and replaced them with his own appointed administrators. This all happened within three months of Overland getting the chop.
“Dictator Dan” also publicly rebuked the High Court — Australia’s supreme legal body — for unanimously overturning the Victorian conviction of Cardinal Pell.
The connection between Pell’s accuser and this whole political sewage pit came in June 2019, when Overland used his position as Whittlesea CEO to find a job for the then long-term unemployed Witness J. According to his CV on LinkedIn, the former choirboy was initially given the rather fuzzy title of “Contract Support Officer”. He later moved on to another position at the council, which I will not record here for legal reasons.Quadrant Online
So, a corrupt cop with a track record of persuading informants to make false accusations that land public figures in jail, a false accuser rewarded with a plum government job, and a premier who dramatically and publicly interferes in both local government and High Court proceedings.
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