George Pell loses appeal over child sexual abuse ruling
Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse convictions was dismissed by the Victorian Court of Appeal this morning by a majority of two to one.
Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell dismissed it, while Justice Mark Weinberg upheld the appeal.
The two judges agreed it “was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Cardinal Pell was guilty as charged” and also dismissed the appeal on technical grounds.
The decision means Australia’s most prominent Catholic cleric will remain behind bars and continue to serve his six-year prison term.
Pell, 78, will be eligible for parole three years and eight months into his sentence, although he is also free to appeal the decision to dismiss his appeal in the High Court.
Documents seeking special leave to appeal must be filed within 28 days, although it is not guaranteed the High Court will agree to hear the matter.
Speaking shortly after the ruling was delivered, Chief Justice Anne Ferguson described in detail the reasons why the appeal had failed.
She explained all 13 of the submissions made by Pell’s lawyers at appeal had been rejected, and that both she and Justice Maxwell believed it was possible for the offences to occur.
Those 13 obstacles to Pell committing the crimes were put forward by his lawyers and included technical details such as the layout of the cathedral and the weight of Pell’s robes.
Doubt over whether the crimes were physically possible to have been carried out had been central to Pell’s defence, especially the maneuverability of Pell’s robes at the time.
Pell’s team had argued they were too heavy for Pell to have been able to move and expose his penis — but that claim was rejected after all three judges held the robes in question and were able to pick them up.
Justices Ferguson and Maxwell dismissed all 13 of those “obstacles” and found there was nothing in the complainant’s evidence that would cause the jury to doubt the account.
“Part of Cardinal Pell’s case on the appeal was that there were 13 solid obstacles in the path of a conviction. Justice Maxwell and I have rejected all 13,” Justice Ferguson said.
“By way of example, one of the 13 obstacles was said to be that the acts alleged to have been committed by Cardinal Pell in the first incident were physically impossible.
“The defence relied on categorical statements by Monsignor and by the sacrister, that it was not possible to pull the Cardinal’s robes to the side.
“The robes were an exhibit at the trial and had been available to the jury in the jury room during their deliberation.
“Having taken the advantage of the opportunity to feel the weight of the robes, and assess their manoeuvrability as garments, Justice Maxwell and I decided that it was well open to the jury to reject the contention of physical impossibility.
“The robes were not so heavy, nor so immovable as the evidence of Monseigneur Portelli and Mr Potter had suggested.
“We found that the robes were capable of being manoeuvred in a way that might be described as being pulled to one side or pulled apart.”
According to the Herald Sun, his legal team have already indicated they will take the matter to the High Court.
However, there is no guarantee the High Court will hear the case at all, as certain legal requirements must be met for that to happen.
PELL’S 13 EXCUSES
According to an account published by The Age in June, Pell’s lawyers had argued the crimes could not have taken place due to 13 obstacles.
Those arguments included:
- Discrepancies surrounding the timing of the offences
- The weight and maneuverability of Pell’s robes
- Witness accounts which claimed it wasn’t possible for Pell to be inside the sacristy a few minutes after mass
- Church officials always ensuring the archbishop was never alone
- It wasn’t possible for two boys to be assaulted in the sacristy without anyone witnessing it
- They wouldn’t have been able to leave an outside procession undetected
- Officials not seeing the boys in the sacristy
- Someone would have noticed the boys’ absence
- The boys couldn’t have re-entered the choir room without being noticed
- A contradiction in the victim’s evidence over the year the second incident occurred
- No witnesses when the victim claimed the second assault took place in a busy corridor
- Pell could not have been present in the corridor as he would have been in a different location
- Witnesses not seeing anything consistent with the prosecution case
Source : https://www.news.com.au/national/victoria/courts-law/george-pells-defence-torn-to-shreds-by-judges/news-story/1cbb1f333c01eb83129a6b424daffb42