April 6, 2020
By Melissa Davey
Australian high court’s decision is Pell’s last chance to overturn conviction for historical child sexual abuse
On Tuesday, almost two years after being committed to stand trial on multiple charges of historical child sexual abuse, the case against the former financial controller of the Vatican, Cardinal George Pell, will likely end with him either walking free or remaining in jail to serve the rest of his sentence.
After failing to appeal to Victoria’s appellate court in August, Pell’s legal team took his case to the high court, the final avenue in his bid for freedom. Across two days in March, the full bench of seven justices heard Pell’s barrister Bret Walker SC argue that Victoria’s appellate judges, who dismissed Pell’s first appeal in 2019 by a majority of two-to-one, may have been unduly influenced by the complainant’s testimony by watching a recorded video of it rather than just reading the transcript of his evidence.
Walker also argued that just because the complainant was believable and compelling, it should not have led jurors to discount other evidence that placed his evidence in doubt. The director of the Office of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd, responded by saying that given Pell’s legal team made so much of the complainant’s lack of credibility and believability, Victoria’s appellate court was entitled to watch the video. It did not mean they had elevated it above other evidence, or that they had not given due weight to other evidence from the trial, she said. She added that the entire body of evidence considered together gave weight to the complainant’s account, rather than discrediting it.
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