15 August 2019, The Tablet

Cardinal Pell appeal decision due next week

Pell, 78, was found guilty of molesting two St Patrick’s choirboys, one on two separate occasions

Cardinal Pell appeal decision due next week

Cardinal George Pell leaves the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne, Thursday, June 6, 2019. Pell is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s.

Listen to the latest Tablet podcast, where foreign editor James Roberts discusses this and other issues with home editor Liz Dodd

A court in Australia will rule next week on Cardinal George Pell's appeal against his conviction on child sex abuse offences.

The decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal is expected on Wednesday 21 August.

If successful, Pell will be released from prison where he has been incarcerated since he was sentenced in March to six years in prison after his conviction last December on five counts of child sex abuse. 

He appealed against the verdict and the court heard the appeal in June. 

Several outcomes are possible from the appeal, ABC reported. If the jury is found to have reached an "unreasonable" verdict, the verdict will be overturned. If the court itself is found to have been in error, Pell could face a retrial. If the conviction is upheld, Pell's legal team could appeal once more, up to the High Court. If the conviction is overturned, the prosecution could also appeal to the High Court.

At the appeal hearing in June, before three judges, Pell's barrister, Bret Walker SC, told the court that “questions of probability” were at the heart of the question, and argued it was “literally impossible” for Pell to have carried out the offending alleged to have taken place in St Patrick’s sacristy after Mass. He questioned the timeframe of “five to six minutes undisturbed” and referred to the complainant’s account that Pell was in full ceremonial robes which he pulled aside to expose his private parts.

Walker said the heavy robes Pell was wearing and his habit of meeting members of the congregation made the offences physically impossible. He argued that the guilty verdict was “unreasonable” in light of all of the trial evidence submitted by more than 20 witnesses.

Pell, 78, was found guilty of molesting two St Patrick’s choirboys, one on two separate occasions, soon after he was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. If the outcome of the appeal is that he remains in prison, he will be eligible for parole in October 2022. He is currently in Melbourne Assessment Prison. 


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