George Pell loses appeal over child sexual abuse ruling.
By a majority of two to one, Victoria’s Supreme Court dismissed Pell’s appeal ordering him to “return to prison”.
As Cardinal George Pell sat in court surrounded by his supporters, there was at least one man in the room on their side.
Justice Mark Weinberg was the only one to rule in the disgraced Catholic leader’s favour, finding the complainant’s account of his sexual abuse was “entirely implausible and quite unconvincing” and may have even been concocted.
Pell lost his bid for freedom from a six-year jail sentence when his appeal against child sex convictions was dismissed in court this morning.
By a majority of two to one, Victoria’s Supreme Court dismissed the appeal ordering Pell to “return to prison”.
In reading out the court’s conclusions for rejecting the appeal, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson outlined Justice Weinberg’s reasoning.
While she said she and Justice Chris Maxwell accepted the prosecution’s submission the complainant was a compelling witness and clearly not a liar, Judge Weinberg did not agree.
“In his dissenting judgment, the judge found that at times, the complainant was inclined to embellish aspects of his account,” she told the court this morning.
“He concluded that his evidence contained discrepancies, displayed inadequacies so as to cause him to have a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.
“He could not exclude as a reasonable possibility that some of what the complainant said was concocted, particularly in relation to the second incident.”
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Pell was found guilty of raping one choirboy and molesting another in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral 22 years ago.
Pell’s victims were two 13-year-old boys on scholarships to the prestigious St Kevin’s College.
The original court was told how the pair “nicked off” after a Sunday solemn mass in December 1996 and were caught swigging sacramental wine in the sacristy — a room at the rear of the cathedral used by priests to dress — by Pell, who was the newly installed Archbishop of Melbourne.
Pell scolded them and then proceeded to expose his penis from beneath his ceremonial robes before molesting them.
One of the victims, now in his 30s, brought the allegations to police after years of having struggled to understand what he’d experienced.
A month or so after Pell raped him, he was sexually assaulted by Pell again when he pushed him against a cathedral wall and fondled his genitalia.
This morning Justice Ferguson said Justice Weinberg found the complainant’s account of the second incident was entirely implausible and quite unconvincing.
“Nevertheless, Justice Weinberg stated that in relation to the first incident, if the complainant’s evidence was the only evidence, he might well have found it difficult to say that the jury, acting reasonably, were bound to have a reasonable doubt about the Cardinal’s guilt,” she said.
“He went on to note, however, that there was more than just the complainant’s evidence.
“In Justice Weinberg’s view, there was significant and in some places impressive evidence
suggesting that the complainant’s account was, in a realistic sense, impossible to accept.”
She said the judge believed there was a “significant possibility” Pell may not have committed the offences.
“Justice Weinberg stated that in his view, the convictions could not stand,” she said.
“Nevertheless, the appeal on the unreasonableness ground has been dismissed because two of us took a different view of the facts.”