Pell High Court Decision Due Next Week
By Karen Sweeney
April 1, 2020
|Cardinal George Pell was convicted in 2018 of the sexual abuse of two choirboys in 1996. Credit: AAP|
Disgraced Cardinal George Pell will learn next week whether his final bid for freedom has been successful.
The High Court will hand down its judgment in his case in Brisbane on Tuesday morning.
Pell is one year into a six-year jail sentence handed down after a jury found him guilty in 2018 of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.
He failed in a Victorian Court of Appeal bid last year, after two out of three judges found there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty.
The former Vatican Treasurer was convicted on the word of one of the choirboys, now in his 30s. He came forward in 2014 after the death of the other boy.
After a month-long trial and three days of deliberations, a jury unanimously convicted Pell of four charges over the sexual abuse of the two boys in the priest's sacristy of the cathedral after a Sunday mass in December 1996.
A fifth conviction related to a separate incident when Pell pushed the surviving boy against a wall in a corridor and fondled him.
Australia's highest court has not yet granted the convicted pedophile permission to appeal his sentence.
Instead it heard that application and his appeal arguments simultaneously.
That means the decision of the full-bench of seven judges could go several ways.
A majority or all could refuse his appeal bid altogether, meaning Pell's conviction stands.
They could grant leave to appeal but refuse the appeal, which would also mean Pell's conviction stands.
His legal team will hope both are granted, and have asked that Pell's conviction be quashed entirely should his appeal be a success.
Justice Geoffrey Nettle hinted a re-hearing of the original appeal either by the High Court or by sending it back to Victoria's Court of Appeal was an option.
Pell's legal team, led by appeals specialists Bret Walker SC, argued on day one of a two-day hearing in Canberra last month that there were "unexplored possibilities that meant it was not open to the jury to convict".
He said the only evidence that Pell's offending had occurred came from the complainant and that evidence could not stand if it was accepted that other witnesses had been truthful.
Other witnesses included Monsignor Charles Portelli, who told the trial it was Pell's practice to greet parishioners on the steps of the cathedral after mass - at the opposite end of the building to where the complainant said the abuse occurred.
Victoria's Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC urged the judges not to look at the evidence in an isolated way, but to consider Monsignor Portelli's evidence with that of several choirboys who said there were times Pell didn't greet parishioners after Mass.
She also said they should consider aspects of the complainant's evidence, including that he accurately described the room where Pell had been robing at the time as being different to his usual sacristy.
"If he was going to make this up, if he was fantasising, the place to pick was the Archbishop's sacristy, not a place that Pell would not normally be in," Ms Judd said.