Cardinal George Pell could walk from custody a free man today if the Court of Appeal quashes his convictions on child sexual abuse offences. Source: The Age.
The court’s judgment is believed to be 300 pages long.
At 9.30am, Cardinal Pell will learn the fate of his appeal against convictions on five charges of sexually abusing two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in the 1990s when he was archbishop of Melbourne.
Cardinal Pell and his legal team appealed against the convictions and argued the County Court jury’s verdicts were unreasonable because jurors must have entertained a reasonable doubt in their deliberations.
He has steadfastly denied the allegations.
If the Court of Appeal rules in his favour and quashes the convictions, Cardinal Pell will be released from custody.
His lawyers argue he was never left unattended by Church officials while he was robed, that the choirboys couldn’t have re-entered the building from outside without being seen, that Cardinal Pell’s practice of meeting parishioners after Mass gave him an alibi and that his cumbersome robes made the sexual assault allegations physically impossible.
These points, Cardinal Pell’s lawyers argued, were enough to create a reasonable doubt among the jury, and for him to be found not guilty.
He was convicted on the back of the evidence given by one of the victims, now a man in his 30s. The other victim died in 2014 having never reported the abuse.
Prosecutors argue the surviving victim was a credible witness of truth whose evidence was accepted by the jury and stood up against hours of cross-examination.
As a fall-back, Cardinal Pell’s lawyers have also argued their client should face a retrial due to two legal rulings made at trial by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd.
If the appeal judges – Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Mark Weinberg and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell – rule Cardinal Pell should stand trial again, he could face another jury.
The ruling will be broadcast on the Supreme Court website.