A masterful and deeply troubling expose, Witness is the culmination of almost five years’ work for award-winning investigative journalist Louise Milligan. Charting the experiences of those who have the courage to come forward and face their abusers in high-profile child abuse and sexual assault cases, Milligan was profoundly shocked by what she found.
During this time, the #MeToo movement changed the zeitgeist, but time and again during her investigations Milligan watched how witnesses were treated in the courtroom and listened to them afterwards as they relived the associated trauma. Then she was a witness herself in the trial of the decade, R v George Pell.
She interviews high-profile members of the legal profession, including judges and prosecutors. And she speaks to the defence lawyers who have worked in these cases, discovering what they really think about victims and the process, and the impact that this has on their own lives. Milligan also reveals never-before-published court transcripts, laying bare the flaws that are ignored, and a court system that can be sexist, unfeeling and weighted towards the rich and powerful.
Witness is a call for change. Milligan exposes the devastating reality of the Australian legal system where truth is never guaranteed and, for victims, justice is often elusive. And even when they get justice, the process is so bruising, they wish they had never tried.
Louise Milligan is an investigative reporter for ABC TV’s Four Corners and the bestselling author of Cardinal, which won numerous prizes including the Walkley Book Award. Cardinal broke massive international news involving Australia’s most senior Catholic and laid bare the broader history of clergy abuse in Australia. Her latest highly acclaimed book, Witness, explores the brutal treatment survivors of sexual crimes experience in the criminal justice system and was recently awarded the People’s Choice prize in the Victorian Premier’s Literary Awards. Louise received the 2019 Press Freedom Medal for her body of work.
Louise Milligan’s timely and incredibly important book canvasses the systematic and organised hounding of sexual abuse victims who seek justice in Australian courts.
With erudite analysis, Milligan puts on trial the judges, prosecutors and legal professionals who frame their unashamed and dogged discrediting of sexual abuse victims as “all in a day’s work”. Milligan reveals victims of sexual abuse crimes being re-traumatised via the criminal justice system and its professionals, and shows how victims’ experiences in courts are frequently devastating and irreparable.
Exposing a legal system in dire need of overhaul, Milligan details how chronic distortion and undermining of victim testimony and experiences is enabled by a legal framework that sees abusers set free, legal professionals dispassionately moving on to their next case, and victims left reeling.
‘Witness is lucid, scathing and, often, exceptionally moving.’ Declan Fry, The Sydney Morning Herald
‘a triumph of intellect and empathy’ Ben Mathews, The Conversation