“George Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse convictions will be decided by a court next week” & related article

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ABC News (Australian Broadcasting)

15 August 2019

George Pell is escorted by prison guards from a van outside the Supreme Court building. Photo: George Pell is serving a six-year jail term for sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s. (AAP: Julian Smith)

Cardinal George Pell could be released from custody next week if his appeal against his child sex abuse convictions is successful.

Key points:

  • If the jury’s verdict is judged to be unreasonable, Pell’s conviction will be overturned
  • If the judges find the court erred, a retrial could be ordered
  • The appeal outcome could itself be subject to a High Court appeal

The Victorian Court of Appeal will rule on whether to overturn Pell’s convictions for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

It was announced that judgment will be handed down on Wednesday, August 21.

A jury found Pell guilty last December of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child, making him the highest ranked Catholic cleric ever convicted of child sex abuse.

Three judges have scrutinised the case and will take their seats behind the bench to announce their decision from 9:30am on Wednesday.

The proceedings will be live streamed on the Supreme Court of Victoria’s website.

So what are the possible outcomes?

Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg look at the camera. Photo: Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg are deciding the appeal outcome. (Supplied: Supreme Court of Victoria)

If the court finds the jury got it wrong:

Pell’s central ground of appeal was that the guilty verdicts were unreasonable because there was insufficient evidence for a jury to have been satisfied of his guilt beyond reasonable doubt.

It’s a high bar.

The judges would need to be convinced that any properly prepared jury must have entertained a reasonable doubt, not that they merely could have.

Pell’s barrister, Bret Walker SC, told a previous hearing that the jury could not have excluded a reasonable doubt because of the many improbabilities contained in the victim’s evidence.

If the judges agree, Pell’s convictions will be quashed.

The cardinal will then be released from custody immediately. He could be free to walk out the Victorian Supreme Court’s front doors.

But his freedom could be short-lived as Victorian prosecutors could appeal against the decision in the High Court.

A muted sketch shows Pell looking down during the trial with a glum expression on his face. Photo: Pell was found guilty at the end of a second trial after the first jury to hear his case couldn’t reach a verdict. (Supplied: Fay Plamka)

If the court rules errors were made during Pell’s trial:

Pell’s other two grounds for appeal were described by his barrister as “fall-back” options for if the judges disagreed the verdicts were unreasonable.

The cardinal alleges two errors were made during the trial.

The first is that he was arraigned, which means asked to enter a plea, while the potential jurors watched via video link rather than being in the courtroom.

Pell alleges the judge also made an error when he barred the defence from playing an animation to the jury.

It consisted of a number of dots moving around a floor plan of St Patrick’s Cathedral, where Pell abused the choirboys. The dots depicted the movements of the many witnesses after Sunday mass and was an illustration of the defence’s argument that Pell couldn’t have abused the boys unnoticed.

County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd did not allow the animation to be played to the jury during the defence’s closing address as he ruled it constituted new evidence.

Pell’s convictions will be overturned if the Court of Appeal finds that Judge Kidd should have allowed the animation to be played, or that the law required Pell to be arraigned in the physical presence of the jurors.

In that case, the judges could order a retrial.

That is, unless they find it would be unjust to order Pell to face trial a third time.

The facade of St Patrick's Cathedral at the end of a tree-lined footpath. Photo: Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing the boys at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)

That will depend on a number of factors including the expense and burden of a retrial, the length of time Pell has already served in prison compared to his likely sentence if found guilty again and, importantly, any risks to Pell receiving a fair trial.

If the court does order a new trial, it will be up to the Director of Public Prosecutions to decide whether to go ahead with it.

If Pell’s appeal is dismissed entirely:

If the Court of Appeal judges aren’t convinced Pell’s convictions should be overturned, he will be transported back to prison to continue serving his six-year jail term.

The 78-year-old spent his birthday behind bars in June and would remain there until at least the age of 81, before becoming eligible for parole.

Pell is not planning to appeal against the length of his sentence.

But his avenues to appeal against his convictions wouldn’t be exhausted.

Pell could challenge the Victorian Court of Appeal’s judgment in the High Court.


Judges Set to Rule on Cardinal George Pell’s Child Sex-Abuse Appeal

The decision, which could order a retrial, quash the former Vatican finance chief’s conviction or dismiss his appeal, will be broadcast on the internet


By Aug. 15, 2019 12:31 am ET

Robb M. Stewart

Cardinal George Pell, convicted of child sexual abuse, maintains his innocence. Photo: erik anderson/Shutterstock

MELBOURNE, Australia—Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Vatican official ever to be jailed for child sexual abuse, could be freed next week if he wins his appeal against the conviction.

A panel of Australian judges will rule on whether to quash the cardinal’s conviction for assaulting two young choir boys inside the cathedral that was the center of his diocese in the late 1990s.

Three judges in the Supreme Court of Victoria, the southern state where the 78-year-old cleric first served as a priest and later was Archbishop of Melbourne, have been deliberating for months and held an appeal hearing in June.

If the cardinal loses his appeal, he could challenge that decision in the country’s top court, the High Court of Australia. Conversely, even if he wins next week, his freedom could be temporary given widespread expectations the prosecution would appeal that outcome to the High Court.

In December, a jury convicted Cardinal Pell on five counts of sexually abusing two choir boys inside a priests’ room in a Melbourne cathedral in late 1996 and one of the boys in a cathedral corridor in early 1997, not long after he became Archbishop of Melbourne. The former Vatican finance chief was sentenced to six years in prison earlier this year.

The judges’ findings will be released Aug. 21 in proceedings that will also be broadcast on the internet, an indication of the levels of public interest in the case both here and abroad. Cardinal Pell maintains he is innocent.

The main argument of the cardinal’s appeal was that the guilty verdicts were unreasonable based on the evidence. The cardinal’s lawyers also argued that mistakes were made that prevented him from getting a fair trial. The prosecution countered that the cardinal’s accuser was a compelling and believable witness, who gave testimony a jury could accept.

In hearing appeals, the supreme court can order a retrial, change the decision in a case or stand by the lower court’s ruling. It is the state’s highest court, and only the High Court can review its decisions.

Police in mid-2017 laid more than two dozen charges of child sex abuse against Cardinal Pell, and he faced the prospect of at least two separate trials. One accuser died before proceedings began, prosecutors dropped several charges during pretrial hearings and a judge didn’t push others through to criminal trial. In February, the prosecution dropped a case based on claims he indecently assaulted two minors about 40 years ago when he was priest in his hometown parish outside Melbourne.

Two civil suits have since been filed against Cardinal Pell, for alleged child abuse and for allegedly doing nothing to prevent abuse decades ago by another priest who was later convicted of abusing boys.

Write to Robb M. Stewart at robb.stewart@wsj.com

20 Responses to “George Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse convictions will be decided by a court next week” & related article

  1. Sylvia says:

    Mark your calendars: The Victorian Court of Appeal will release its decision starting at 09:30 am AEST on Wednesday 21 August 2019 which is 8:30 pm (20:30 hrs) EDT on Tuesday 20 August 2019. Be sure to check the time change!

  2. NatLog says:

    21st August- The Roman Church sets this day aside the celebrate/ commemorate the life and work of Pope St. Pius X- (an old reactionary and someone whom Pell would admire and emulate in their attempts to “stop the clock”) and somewhat appropriate given that Australia’s Appellate Court has set aside this day to pronounce judgment on Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse convictions.

  3. NatLog says:

    Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for child sexual abuse upheld on appeal. “He will continue to serve his sentence of six years imprisonment,” judge states.

  4. Phil Johnson says:

    Great news on his sentence! Of course his high priced lawyers will likely do a final appeal…all paid for by yup…that church. Of course the blind sheep who still think he’s innocent will now rent their garments and wear sackcloth over their heads and moan about how unfair it is.

    • Sylvia says:

      I do believe that justice has been done!

    • bc says:

      Indeed despite all of it`s denials the Church is supporting convicted clerical perverts with living expenses and legal fees. Dioceses aren`t always doing it directly from their books. But they are doing it via thousands of front charities, foundations, trusts and numbered companies where most of the donations and dirty money it receives is re-invested and laundered. One such front charity for clerical perverts designed to keep ’em quiet about the bishops who covered-up for them is Michigan`s Opus Bono Sacerdotii which is under investigation. The recent uncovering of how Michael J. Bransfield the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling–Charleston West Virginia paid his hierarchy to continue to abuse is a cautionary tale about donating to the Church; and it exposed one mechanism of the cover-up: Rome officials being paid by bishops worldwide to cover-up their cover-up.

      McCarrick. Cardinal Pell. France’s Cardinal Barbarin’s appeal (another close pal of Pope Francis) is scheduled for November 28th

      • NatLog says:

        I believe Cardinal George Pell’s legal fees run to $50.000 per day.
        With an appeal to the High Court in Australia very likely the figures will continue to add up and up. Probably millions of dollars by the time it is all done.

        Peter Comensoli the current Archbishop of Melbourne is now telling people that it is a case of ‘mistaken identity’. The victim identified the wrong man and thus Pell is innocent.

        Together with the “that was then; this is now” mantra are we now seeing new tactics being played out by the institution to plant ideas into the minds of people that it is all just a ‘terrible mistake’?

  5. NatLog says:

    Certainly an appeal to Australia’s High Court is possible. It will certainly give Frank and the crew over at Imperial HQ time to decide what they exactly will do next.

    Of course the real question is who else knew of Pell’s crimes? It could be argued that Frank removed Pell to Rome from Sydney precisely because he knew all too well what our convicted and jailed Cardinal had been doing.

    Frank- a typical Jesuit and a consummate casuist- has an equivocal attitude to truth- It is simply a commodity to be used and abused as and when the situation requires.

    Try and extricate yourself from this tight spot Frank- it will be fascinating to watch this 82 year professional holy man in action!

  6. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    NatLog – indeed, watching Frankie these next few days will be most interesting. Remarkably, I am not seeing or hearing any media coverage regarding Georgie going back to prison. It is receiving limited coverage in Australia, and next to none elsewhere.
    Frankie would do well looking into a mirror. He spends most of his most recent days telling the world what to do, when to do it, how to do it, and what to think. Perhaps he should clean up the fetid, sordid mess in his own backyard before pointing an accusing finger at the neighbour’s yard.
    I know what to expect, as do most people. “I know nothing, nothing at all”!!! He will wash his hands of this Pell thing, like a Teflon Don.
    Blasé Cupich and Timothy Dolan beware – this here “rabbit hole” is big enough to swallow both of you up in one gulp.
    Onwards and downwards. Mike.

  7. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    The pope continues to rail on about what we all should be doing. His new call is for international cooperation in fighting the Amazon fires.
    I wonder what the Vatican is doing about the fires. Are they contributing any money and/or resources, or just sitting back like Nero and telling us all what to do. Mike.

    • Phil Johnson says:

      Frankie is useless. I’m tired of his smile and his verbal diarrhea about things. He’s “fiddling” with us.

    • Bill Geerts says:

      Mike Fitzgerald The church was never created to be about the people, but for those sick in it, I know nothing of this Bishops life, his guilt or innocence. Jesus did not create the church for the Bishops nor the Pope. Jesus died on a cross, willingly spreading his arms on it while they gambled for his clothes in wait to be nailed there. That view, is to be our view, of sinners such that they can get over themselves realising the power of God and His hope and love for each of us. Please think about that.

      • Phil Johnson says:

        Not quite sure I follow your post. The power of God is great, but the power in that church has become tainted with scandals/abuse which they don’t seem to mind funding the defenses of pervert collars.

  8. Mike Fitzgerald says:


  9. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Bill Geerts – I’m having difficulty following your train of thought as well. I will not EVER support financially, or in theory, an organization that fails dismally to practise what it preaches.
    You just go right ahead with “your views”. They are not mine. Mike.

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