The High Court of Australia this week overturned Cardinal George Pell’s conviction for five alleged counts of sexual abuse, and despite his release from prison, Pell is likely to face several civil lawsuits from alleged abuse victims and their families.
The High Court on April 7 overturned Pell’s 2018 conviction for alleged abuse of two choir boys. The father of one of the alleged victims in the criminal case— who has since died— is suing the Catholic Church, claiming Pell’s alleged abuse was the reason for his son’s “sudden turmoil” in 1996, according to his lawyer Lisa Flynn.
“We will continue to pursue a civil claim on behalf of our client despite the High Court’s ruling today. He has suffered immensely and maintains George Pell was responsible for his son’s sudden downward spiral after he abused his son as a young choirboy,” Flynn said April 7.
The other alleged victim, referred to in court as Witness J, will not be filing a civil suit, his lawyer told The Guardian.
That complainant said that he and another choir boy were sexually abused by Pell after Sunday Mass while the cardinal was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.
According to the complainant, Pell exposed himself and forced the two teenage choir boys to commit sex acts upon him, while the cardinal was vested, almost immediately after Mass in the priests’ sacristy at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996. The complainant also said that Pell fondled him in a corridor in 1997.
Pell was convicted in 2018, in the second trial concerning the allegations. The first trial ended in a hung jury.
The cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he had been required to serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole. Pell would have been eligible for release in October 2022.
Pell, 78, has maintained his innocence.
At least two civil lawsuits against Pell have already been filed.
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