The High Court of Australia this morning quashed George Pell’s convictions for child sexual abuse. Chief Justice Susan Kiefel handed down the decision in Brisbane. The George Pell appeal was against his 2018 conviction in a Victorian Court.
That court sentenced the 78-year-old cardinal to a six-year jail term.
The charges alleged Pell abused two choir boys in the priests’ sacristy after mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
George Pell appeal
Pell first appealed the verdict in the Victorian Court of Appeal. That court upheld the verdict in a two-to-one decision.
However, Pell’s lawyers then went to the High Court where they argued the Victorian appeal court failed to take proper account of evidence that cast doubt on his guilt.
The High Court found that the jury at Pell’s trial should have entertained doubt.
In their decision, the justices stated it was not enough that they found the witness believable, compelling and honest.
The court then set aside Pell’s child abuse convictions and he will be released immediately.
Only one of the alleged victims testified at the trial with the other dying of a drug overdose previously.
Victorian Police statement
Following the decision, the Victorian Police issued a statement.
“We respect the decision of the High Court in this matter and continue to provide support to those complainants involved.
“Victoria Police remains committed to investigating sexual assault offences and providing justice for victims no matter how many years have passed. We would also like to acknowledge the tireless work on this case by Taskforce Sano investigators over many years.”
Despite the court’s decision, Pell faces ongoing legal battles.
People who allege he abused them or allege he did nothing to prevent their abuse at the hands of other priests plan civil action against him.
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