February 28, 2019
By Melissa Davey
Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his convictions of sexually assaulting and penetrating choirboys is likely to be granted and has a good chance of succeeding on the basis of unreasonableness, according to legal experts and defence lawyers.
Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter, told the sentencing hearing on Wednesday that his client’s appeal would be based on three key grounds: unreasonableness, the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, and composition of the jury.
Experts spoken to by Guardian Australia agreed that while the latter two appeared flimsy, an appeal on the basis of unreasonableness may have a high chance of success. This argument says the jury delivered a verdict that was not supported by the evidence.
University of Melbourne law school’s criminal appeals and procedure expert, Professor Jeremy Gans, said this was a commonly used grounds for appeal.
“Prosecutors would be completely prepared for an appeal based on this,” he said.
“And it’s not a rare grounds to succeed on. This is the defence’s best shot and carries a bonus for them in that if they win there can almost certainly be no new trial. Because once a court decides a guilty verdict is unreasonable it means they don’t think guilty should be the verdict in the next trial either. They would almost certainly acquit. Basically on this grounds of appeal, the court gets to decide if the jury got it right.”
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