Cardinal George Pell will appeal his conviction to the Australian High Court, following the decision last week by the Court of Appeal in Victoria to uphold his conviction for child sexual abuse.
Sources close to the cardinal told CNA Aug. 26 that Pell would be exercising his final appeal and that, while the majority of “special leave to appeal” cases were not granted by the High Court, his case would likely be accepted given the controversy triggered by the split decision of the Appeal Court judgement.
In seeking to take his case to the High Court in Canberra, Australia’s supreme court, Pell will be exercising his last legal avenue to overturn a conviction which has divided opinion in the country and internationally.
Several Australian media outlets have reported that Pell will retain the same legal team which presented his case in Victoria, led by Brett Walker SC.
The cardinal was convicted Dec. 11, 2018, on five charges that he sexually abused two choristers after Sunday Mass while he was Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 and 1997.
He was sentenced to six years in prison, of which he must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.
The cardinal, 78, who remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals, was returned to prison immediately after court adjourned. He has been held in solitary confinement for 176 days. Pell and has not been permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.
Pell’s appeal was presented on three grounds, two of which were procedural and dismissed by all three appeal judges.
The judges were divided on Pell’s primary ground of appeal, that the decision of the jury was “unreasonable.”
At particular issue was the question of whether the jury which convicted Pell had properly weighed all of the evidence presented in his defense, or reached the determination of guilt despite the demonstration of clear “reasonable doubt” that he committed the crimes with which he was charged.
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