United States  

Cardinal George Pell's abuse convictions overturned by Australia's High Court

CNA Tuesday, 7 April 2020
Washington D.C., Apr 6, 2020 / 06:25 pm (CNA).- After an ordeal that began nearly four years ago, and more than 13 months of imprisonment, Cardinal George Pell is expected to be released from prison imminently, after his conviction for five alleged counts of sexual abuse was overturned Tuesday by Australia’s High Court.

Pell is expected to be released from prison within two hours.

“The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place,” the court said in a judgment summary April 7.

After a March hearing at the High Court in Canberra, which Pell was not permitted to attend, the cardinal will soon be released from HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security facility southwest of Melbourne. Pell is expected to celebrate with a private Mass of thanksgiving, the first he will celebrate since his incarceration in February 2019.

At issue in the appeal was whether the jury that convicted Pell in December 2018 of sexually abusing two choristers could have plausibly found Pell guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, having heard the case presented by the prosecutors and the defense mounted by Pell’s lawyers.

The High Court found the appellate court that heard Pell’s appeal last year “failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”

The Court’s April 7 release added that “The unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses was inconsistent with the complainant's account, and described: (i) the applicant's practice of greeting congregants on or near the Cathedral steps after Sunday solemn Mass; (ii) the established and historical Catholic church practice that required that the applicant, as an archbishop, always be accompanied when robed in the Cathedral; and (iii) the continuous traffic in and out of the priests' sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended Sunday solemn Mass.”

“The Court held that, on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant's evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents.”

In their appeal, Pell’s attorney argued that the conviction should have been overturned because it was based upon uncorroborated testimony of only one complainant.

That complainant said that he and another choir boy were sexually abused by Pell after Sunday Mass while the cardinal was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.

According to the complainant, Pell exposed himself and forced the two teenage choir boys to commit sex acts upon him, while the cardinal was fully vested in his Sunday Mass garb, almost immediately after Mass in the priests’ sacristy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The complainant also said that Pell fondled him in a corridor in 1997.

"The assumption that a group of choristers, including adults, might have been so preoccupied with making their way to the robing room as to fail to notice the extraordinary sight of the Archbishop of Melbourne dressed 'in his full regalia' advancing through the procession and pinning a 13 year old boy to the wall, is a large one," the High Court said in its decision.

The other apparent victim died in 2014, and was unable to testify in the proceedings. In 2001 he denied to his mother that any abuse occurred while he was a member of the choir.

Pell was convicted in 2018, in the second trial concerning the allegations. The first trial ended in a hung jury.

After the conviction, the cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he had been required to serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole. Pell was to be eligible for release in October 2022.

Pell, 78, has maintained his innocence. His defence has insisted that the alleged crimes would have been, under the circumstances, “simply impossible.”

The conviction has divided opinion in Australia and internationally. The cardinal’s defenders have contended that the sacristy abuse allegations are not possible given the high traffic after Mass and the obstructing nature of the Mass vestments.

The cardinal has been incarcerated in HM Prison Barwon, a maximum-security prison southwest of Melbourne that holds some notorious crime bosses.

The cardinal is now expected to face a canonical proceeding in Rome, overseen by the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

This story is developing and is being updated.
0
shares
ShareTweetSavePostSend
 
Video Credit: Reuters Studio - Published
News video: Freed George Pell asks press to keep 'social distance'

Freed George Pell asks press to keep 'social distance' 01:39

Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell was seen at an Australian gas station, just a day after his court acquittal and release from prison on sexual abuse allegations.

You Might Like


Related videos from verified sources

Pell talks God's judgment, week after acquittal [Video]

Pell talks God's judgment, week after acquittal

Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has made his first formal televised interview since his sexual assault conviction was overturned in court and his subsequent release from prison.

Credit: Reuters Studio     Duration: 02:38Published
Cardinal George Pell asks media for social distancing [Video]

Cardinal George Pell asks media for social distancing

Australian Cardinal George Pell, who was cleared of child sex crimes, asks the media for social distance during a visit to a petrol station in the town of Glenrowan in Australia.

Credit: PA - Press Association STUDIO     Duration: 00:40Published
Pope Francis Gives Talks About 'Unjust Sentences' As Cardinal George Pell Is Acquitted [Video]

Pope Francis Gives Talks About 'Unjust Sentences' As Cardinal George Pell Is Acquitted

Australia's highest court acquitted Cardinal George Pell of sexually abusing two choir boys. After the acquittal, Pope Francis dedicated his mass to those suffering from unjust sentences. According to..

Credit: Wochit     Duration: 00:32Published

Related news from verified sources

'The only basis for justice is truth' - With conviction overturned, Cardinal Pell speaks

CNA Staff, Apr 6, 2020 / 07:12 pm (CNA).- After his conviction for child sexual abuse was overturned Tuesday by Australia’s High Court, Cardinal George Pell...
CNA

After criminal acquittal, Cardinal Pell likely to face several civil suits

CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 05:13 pm (CNA).- The High Court of Australia this week overturned Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for five alleged counts of sexual...
CNA Also reported by •FOXNews.comNPR

Melbourne cathedral vandalized after Cardinal Pell acquittal

CNA Staff, Apr 8, 2020 / 03:02 pm (CNA).- St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne was vandalized overnight Wednesday, hours after Cardinal George Pell was...
CNA Also reported by •Catholic Culture

Tweets about this