Legal experts and supporters of Cardinal George Pell are quietly confident he could be acquitted soon and possibly as early as next week after Australia’s highest court deferred ruling on an appeal to overturn his conviction.
After two days of hearings in the Australian capital city of Canberra, a seven-member panel of justices decided March 12 they would take more time to consider whether to allow the appeal which is the cardinal’s last chance to clear his name.
If the High Court justices agree to consider the appeal, which legal experts say is a technicality, they will then immediately decide whether to acquit Cardinal Pell or uphold his conviction.
Such a process would not require another public hearing and could be completed by the middle of next week, although High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel did not give a specific timeframe for the court’s decisions.
The case could, in theory, still be sent back to a lower court in Victoria where the earlier trials were held, but legal sources say there is almost “zero appetite and zero likelihood” of that happening.
Melbourne University law professor Jeremy Gans said that Thursday had been a “good day for Pell’’ at the High Court and there was a chance the cardinal may be acquitted, The Australian reported.
“The takeaway from today’s hearing is that Pell’s prospects of succeeding in the appeal are good,” tweeted Shannon Deery, a journalist for the Herald Sun, adding that the court “seemed on side” with the defense but “struggled” with the prosecution.
According to The Australian, two days of hearings wrapped up on Thursday afternoon with the prosecution, Kerri Judd QC, Victoria’s chief prosecutor, dramatically shifting her position on key evidence and poorly presenting her case to the court.
Cardinal Pell, who followed the High Court hearing from prison near Melbourne, is serving a six-year jail sentence after being convicted in December 2018 on five charges of sexually abusing two choir boys as archbishop of Melbourne after Sunday Mass in the city’s St. Patrick’s cathedral in 1996 and 1997.
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