Australian Court releases submissions for Cardinal Pell’s final appeal
Australia’s High Court has released the full set of submissions for Cardinal George Pell’s March 11 and 12 final appeal hearing against historic child sexual abuse crimes.
The first appeal by Cardinal Pell was dismissed 2-1 by a panel of judges of the Victorian Supreme Court in August. Documents show that the High Court requested submissions from Cardinal Pell’s counsel about the fact that the three judges of the Victorian court decided to view the original video testimony from Cardinal Pell’s only living victim as they considered his appeal.
As the only living witness to the crime, the victim’s testimony sits at the centre of Cardinal Pell’s conviction. The victims’ identities remain secret due to their age at the time of the offences.
The video was shown to the 12-person jury that found Cardinal Pell guilty of five counts of sexual assault and one count of oral rape in the Australian state of Victoria’s County Court in December 2018. Cardinal Pell, at the time senior Vatican official, opted not to give evidence.
The majority decision of the Appeals Court included commentary that the judges were convinced by the demeanour of the victim as part of the evidence they weighed, agreeing that a jury could have found Cardinal Pell guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, the required legal test. The dissenting judge, Marcus Weinberg, was unconvinced that a jury could have reached such a verdict and recommended it be overturned and the cardinal set free.
Cardinal Pell’s defence submission largely relies on the written opinion of the dissenting judge.
On March 11, the High Court’s full bench will first decide whether to grant Cardinal Pell’s special leave to appeal to the court. If leave is not granted, the cardinal will return to prison and serve out his term—at least 32 more months.
If leave is granted, the justices would immediately proceed to hear the appeal. This likely would include questioning lawyers from both sides. The court would then return after some months, with a decision to either uphold Cardinal Pell’s conviction or set him free.—CNS
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