Email to Mr Robert Richter QC (27 February 2019):
It has been a while - I trust you're well.
I have no doubt that these are very busy times for you, so I'll keep it brief.
Respectfully, it was shocking to read the comments in court attributed to you regarding Cardinal Pell's conviction - specifically: “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not actively participating”.
Of course, everyone is entitled to a defence. And, for what it's worth, I certainly have no issue with you defending Pell (or any other criminal) in court.
However, to use such language, is deeply offensive to so many on several levels. It has left me and many others shocked and upset. As you could imagine, it would be having a detrimental impact on some.
I urge you to consider your comments carefully and rectify the situation at the earliest opportunity by acknowledging your use of inappropriate language and apologise for it.
Thanks in advance Robert for considering my request. It is coming from the perspective of victims and survivors of child sexual abuse - I know the potential impact of your words on some of them.
(Mr) Manny Waks
Chief Executive Officer
Email response from Mr Robert Richter QC (28 February 2019):
Thank you for your mail and I too hope you are well.
The comment that was seized on was taken out of a context which lawyers and judges well understand. It was addressed to the judge in an argument seeking to put the conduct, which the judge was obliged to act on because of the verdict, into a comparative context.
I accept that the media chose to report it because it sells but it was never intended for them. In retrospect, I regret using a term well understood by lawyers and judges which is open to misinterpretation by those who do not understand the process of plea making after a conviction when the accused still maintains innocence; I was after all conceding that the conduct required imprisonment rather than arguing for a non-custodial sentence. I was trying to put it within a range which would avoid the kind of excessive number of years for which the crowd is calling.
I have since issued a public apology for the words I used because I really should have been aware of the huge context outside the legal process and the fact that what I put to the judge might be misunderstood.
Hoping you understand and accept my apology,
Robert Richter QC
Email response to Mr Robert Richter QC (28 February 2019):
Thanks for your prompt response.
Thank you also for explaining the context for those offensive words and, more importantly, for apologising for them.
For what it's worth, I accept your apology.
Public apology from Mr Robert Richter QC (28 February 2019):
After spending a sleepless night reflecting upon the terrible choice of a phrase I used in court during the course of a long and stressful process, I offer my sincerest apologies to all who were hurt or offended by it. No offence was intended.
It was not intended to evade the seriousness of what had been done.
The seriousness of the crime was acknowledged at the outset by the concession that it merited imprisonment. In seeking to mitigate sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many.
I hope my apology is accepted as sincerely as it is meant and I will never repeat such carelessness in my choice of words which might offend.