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High Court allows Cardinal Pell appeal

Earlier this morning, Cardinal George Pell, the former treasurer of the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic, had his convictions for historical child sexual offences quashed in a unanimous...

Justin Wong

Earlier this morning, Cardinal George Pell, the former treasurer of the Vatican and Australia’s most senior Catholic, had his convictions for historical child sexual offences quashed in a unanimous judgment from the High Court of Australia.

The High Court of Australia ordered that judgments of acquittal should be entered to each of the historical child sexual offences Cardinal Pell was found guilty of by a jury in 2018.

What was the reasoning of the High Court?

The incidents were alleged to have occurred after the completion of a Sunday solemn Mass. The evidence of the Crown relied upon the testimony of the complainant. The High Court noted that there were a number of other witnesses, who were able to describe the movements of Cardinal Pell following the conclusion of the Sunday solemn Mass that were inconsistent with the complainant’s account.

These inconsistencies, which were unchallenged, were significant enough that the High Court held that a jury, acting rationally, ought to have entertained a doubt as to Cardinal Pell’s guilt.

Some of those inconsistencies were identified as:

  1. Cardinal Pell’s practice of greeting the congregation on or near the Cathedral steps after a Sunday solemn Mass;
  2. The established and historical Catholic church practice that required that Cardinal Pell, as an archbishop, was always accompanied when robed in the Cathedral; and
  3. The continuous traffic in and out of the priests’ sacristy for ten to fifteen minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended the Sunday solemn Mass.

Where to now?

After today’s decision, Cardinal Pell will be released from Barwon prison.  

There is also no further avenue of appeal for the Director of Public Prosecutions after the decision of the High Court.

A final note

Streeton Lawyers recognises the significance of the High Court’s decision for those who have been victims of sexual abuse. Support is available should you need it. Beyond Blue outlines a range of support networks which can be accessed through the following link: https://www.beyondblue.org.au/get-support/national-help-lines-and-websites.

By Aaron Roberts, Associate. Streeton Lawyers.

Photo of the High Court of Australia by Melanie Shires