Photograph: James Ross, AAP
The infamous saga of Cardinal George Pell continues with another appeal but this time, his final one to the High Court.
The Catholic cleric was sentenced to 6 years of imprisonment and 3 years and 8 months of non-parole period for sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s. While his appeal against his child sex abuse convictions was dismissed, Justice Weinberg’s dissenting judgment has been the push for this final appeal based on the grounds of his dissenting opinion.
Pell has to lodge an application for special leave in order to appeal to the High Court within 21 days of the Court of Appeal’s judgment and he is likely to have his next hearing by this year. Should his leave be approved, his appeal is likely to be heard within 4 to 6 months from then.
Currently, Pell is held in a high security cell in the Melbourne Assessment Prison where he is locked up for 23 hours per day. He is to be moved to the Hopkins Centre in Ararat to be imprisoned alongside other ex-priests convicted of varying sex crimes against children.
While Pell’s lawyers argue on the grounds of lack of evidence it is not unusual for cases of sex abuse to have no witnesses to the crime, besides the victims, and for juries to hand their decision through analysing the quality of the statements provided by the victim and how it holds up in cross-examination. Thus, it may be unlikely that the High Court will reverse the judgment. However, in light of the dissenting judgment, more Pell supporters like the Melbourne Archbishop feel further strengthened in their position and hope for Pell’s acquittal in the High Court.
With prevalent institutional sex abuse as indicated by a long line of notorious sex abusers like Father Kevin O’Donnel, anti-abuse advocates like Chrissie Foster believe that Cardinal Pell’s dismissed appeal sends a signal that other victims of institutional abuse will be believed.
More to come if the High Court hears the appeal next year, in 2020.
If you or anyone you know is affected by sexual assault, please call 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) or contact Lifeline on 11 13 14. If you would like to discuss your legal options, contact our offices on 8917 8700 or via the enquiry form on this website.