George Pell appeal: cardinal’s lawyers say jury was wrong to dismiss defense arguments | News in Australia

High-profile lawyer Bret Walker SC argued that jurors who sentenced Cardinal George Pell for child sexual abuse were wrong to dismiss his defense’s arguments about the improbability of the offense.

On Wednesday morning, Pell’s last chance to appeal his verdict began in front of the bench of seven Canberra judges. The court has yet to grant Pell permission to appeal for his conviction – first, he is listening to Walker’s arguments as to why the appeal should be allowed. You can grant or reject the appeal at any time.

Off the pitch, Pell’s supporters who arrived together on a bus gathered with crosses and a sign saying “We are praying for you, Daddy”. A victim lawyer raised a sign saying “Go to Hell Pell”.

Walker opened by telling the bench, led by the chief judge, Susan Kiefel, that questions about the complainant’s credibility, combined with the improbability of the crime, should have prompted the jurors who sentenced Pell to have reasonable doubt about his guilt. The jury’s perception of the complainant’s credibility should not have convinced them on their own beyond reasonable doubt, Walker said.

Pell was born in the Victorian city of Ballarat.

Pell supports Ridsdale in a court appearance for child sexual offenses. Ridsdale is eventually convicted of abusing over 60 children.

Pell is appointed archbishop of Sydney.

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard announces the royal commission in institutional response to child sexual abuse.

Pell is appointed prefect of the Secretariat for Economic Affairs, in effect the treasurer of the Vatican.

Australian investigators interview Pell in Rome on allegations of child sexual abuse. Pell considers them “absolute and shameful rubbish”.

Pell is accused of multiple sexual offenses.

Pell has been ordered to be tried on multiple charges. Details may not be disclosed at this time for legal reasons. Pell says he will plead guilty. The charges are divided into two trials. The first concerns allegations that Pell sexually abused two choirs in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997. The second concerns allegations that Pell molested boys in Ballarat’s pool in the 1970s.


The jury in the first trial fails to reach a verdict. A mistral is declared.

The new trial jury finds Pell guilty of all the charges.

Pell’s appeal against his conviction for sexual abuse of minors is rejected by the Victorian court of appeal. The appellate court of three judges rejected Pell’s first appeal grounds – which the jury unreasonably acted to find him guilty – by a two-to-one margin. The other two grounds were rejected unanimously. He will remain in prison at least until October 2022.

“It is an extreme mistake for anyone to assume the complainant’s credibility which will provide an answer to the reasonable doubts raised through evidence to which the complainant says nothing,” Walker said.

Judge Virginia Bell told Walker that the high court did not care about credibility, since it was up to jurors to decide. If the court decides to hear the appeal, Bell says it would proceed with the acceptance that “the witness impressed the jury as a true witness”.

Walker said he was “in trouble to point out” that the conviction in a complaint did not eliminate the reasonable coexistence of the defendant’s guilt.

Doubt “… it was not possible to eliminate it [just] because the jury had been clearly affected by the complaint, “Walker said. He said this was due to the fact that the complainant’s evidence, although impressive and credible, did not address issues of doubt raised by the defense, such as the lack of opportunities for offenses to have occurred.

Who is Cardinal George Pell?

Pell was essentially the treasurer of the Vatican and the Holy See in Rome. He has also long been confidant with Pope Francis. Prior to his appointment to the Vatican in 2014, Pell held senior positions within the Catholic Church in Australia, including the Archbishop of Sydney and the Archbishop of Melbourne. He is known for his strong conservatism on issues such as matrimonial equality and abortion. Pell is now also the highest Catholic official in the world to have been convicted of child sexual abuse.

What was he convicted of?

In June 2017 Pell was accused of crimes of sexual assault on minors by the Australian police. Pell took his leave of the Vatican and detached himself from his position to return to Australia and fight the charges, which were divided into two trials. The first group referred to the offense in 1996 in St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne when he was archbishop. The second group referred to alleged crimes in a swimming pool while he was a priest in the regional Victorian city of Ballarat in the 1970s.

The trial at the cathedral was held in August and led to a suspended jury. A mistral was declared and the trial was held a second time, starting in November. On December 11 the jury issued a guilty verdict with five charges; a count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four of indecent assault of a child under the age of 16. The convictions refer to Pell’s offense against two 13-year-old choirs.

Why are the details just coming out now?

An order of repression was in place so that jurors in the trial of the second group of alleged crimes were not affected by the reporting of the first trial. But the pool charges were dropped by prosecutors on February 26 after the evidence they relied on to build their case was deemed inadmissible by the judge. As a result, the order of deletion was revoked.

What happens next?

Pell is expected to be sentenced on March 13th. His defense attorney has indicated that his client will appeal. Now that the trial is over, the Royal Commission for Child Sexual Abuse in Australia could also disclose its conclusions regarding Pell, which were drafted when the five-year survey delivered its final report in 2017, in order not to prejudice court proceedings.

The court also addressed the question of whether the Victorian court judges, who rejected Pell’s first appeal with a majority of three to one, may have been unduly influenced by the complainant’s testimony by watching a recorded video rather than simply reading the transcript. Walker said it may have prompted the judges who dismissed the appeal to place too much weight on the evidence of the complaint rather than on the evidence in its entirety.

Pell’s master of ceremonies at the time of the infringement, Charles Portelli, demonstrated during the trial that Pell would remain on the steps of the cathedral after greeting the parishioners for up to 20 minutes. If so, Walker said, Pell would have no chance of offending the sacristy. Prosecutors argued at the trial that while on the steps it became Pell’s custom, it was not yet customary after becoming archbishop in 1996, and other witnesses showed that there were occasions when this meeting could be skipped or shortened.

Walker told the court that the prosecution had not discredited Portelli’s evidence. His evidence was “material on the basis of which it is not possible to eliminate the possibility that the archbishop was on the front steps”. This “forensic” has put a “firm point” on any possibility of offending, Walker said. “This is another point that says it wasn’t open to blame, on balance, beyond reasonable doubt,” he said.

He claimed that it was not the role of the defense to prove that Pell was innocent, but “to demonstrate that there were possibilities that were not excluded from proving that it was not possible to condemn the jury”.

Judge Michelle Gordon asked Walker: “What is the evidence that gives rise to the possibility that it was on the front steps?”

Walker replied that the evidence Portelli and others gave “shows at least the possibility that it was with the archbishop who met and greeted at the opposite end of the cathedral [from] where it was supposed to be at the time of the alleged crime “.

Pell, 78, is serving a six-year prison sentence, with an unconditional three-year and eight-month term. In December 2018, a jury found him guilty of four acts of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16 and a sexual penetration count with a child under the age of 16.

They believed Pell had sexually assaulted two choirs in the priest’s sacristy after the solemn Sunday mass in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996. Pell orally raped one of the boys, the complainant in the case, during this incident and attacked them indecently. Pell offended a second time against the complainant a month later, when he grabbed the boy’s genitals in a church corridor, once again after Sunday’s solemn mass.

When the complainant spoke to the police in June 2015, the other victim had died of an accidental heroin overdose at the age of 30.

The hearing continues.

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