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This morning, the High Court of Australia agreed to accept George Pell’s appeal. While this represents the last chance for Pell, there are some details you should be aware of.
It seems that George Pell will have one last chance to overturn his conviction, as the High Court has agreed to hear him out. While a date is yet to be known, it will arrive sometime in the new year, and Pell will be able to plead his case in front of seven judges.
Per The Guardian, “Led by the high-profile silk Bret Walker SC, Pell’s legal team will argue that the majority of judges in Victoria’s court of appeal erred by finding in August that jurors were not unreasonable to believe the testimony of Pell’s victim.”
“There did remain a reasonable doubt as to the existence of any opportunity for the offending to have occurred,” Pell’s appeal application said.
It’s worth noting that a criminal trial requires the prosecution to establish proof, instead of the defendant having to prove their innocence; today’s filing says judges in the previous appeal wrongfully reversed this thinking.
With the matter referred to the high court, if Pell’s appeal is thrown out, his avenues of legal recourse will be bulldozed. However, in this court, each judge will make up their own minds on the appeal, with the majority of voices seeing the judgement made. Unlike cases with a jury present, a unanimous decision is not required.
What was the result of the case?
Pell faced two separate trials, the jury in the first was unable to reach a verdict on all charges presented, so a retrial was ordered. The retrial jury numbered eight men and four women found him guilty after discussing the matter for three days.
Officially, Pell was facing one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four charges of committing an indecent act with, or in the presence of, a child under 16.
According to the court documentation, Pell found the two boys post-Sunday mass in St Parick’s Cathedral. They had snuck away from a procession and were drinking sacramental wine. Pell, arrived in the room, still dressed in his robes, informed the boys that they were ‘in trouble’ before exposing himself and putting his penis in one of boy’s mouth, before molesting the other.
In 1997, Pell pushed one of the boys against a wall in a cathedral hallway and squeezed the boy’s genitals.
Who were his victims?
Pell’s victims cannot be identified for legal reasons, but as already mentioned, they were choirboys at St Patrick’s. One boy never reported the offence and died a few years ago. The other, now a man in his thirties, reported the allegations to police in 2015.
The first boy never reported the offending and died a few years ago in accidental circumstances.
The second boy, now a man in his 30s, reported the allegations to police in 2015.
He gave evidence at the trial about what Pell did to him and what he saw Pell do to his friend.
Will George Pell actually go to jail?
While Pell is yet to be sentenced, Chief Judge Peter Kidd has indicated he will jail Pell.
At the conclusion of the retrial in December, Judge Kidd told Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, his client could expect to be remanded in custody after his pre-sentence hearing on February 27.
What happened to the second trial?
Originally, two cases were brought against Pell, which also made the headlines, as Pell was with molesting boys in a swimming pool in his hometown Ballarat back in the 1970s. While he was due to face trial on those charges, Judge Peter Kidd decided there were issues with the evidence in that trial and those charges have since been dropped.
Who ordered the media suppression order, and why?
The court imposed the order over Pell’s trial as he was found guilty for the St Patrick’s incident, and was due to face court over the Ballarat incident. In the eyes of the court, the media reporting of the first trial could have prejudiced the second. While we were unable to report on it, it was widely published overseas, allowing the average Australian to easily read the outcome. Now that the second trial is dead, we’re able to openly discuss it.
What does this mean for the Catholic Church?
Putting it mildly, the Catholic Church is in the midst of a serious crisis. With members of the clergy speaking out against the abuses they’ve faced, having the Vatican’s chief financial officer found guilty of sexually abusing children, they’ve likely stepped into the abyss. Pell, 77, is set to face jail, but even if he perishes, it is a stain on the church that may never be removed. The fact that Pell was a member of the Pope’s inner circle, known as ‘The Group of Nine’, one can easily say that all have been tainted by the same brush, and at least in the eye of the public, will forever remain unclean, and perhaps, guilty by association.
But as for Pell, he must return to court tomorrow to face a pre-sentence hearing. He is likely to be sentenced in the following fortnight.