Convicted child sex abuser George Pell lodges High Court appeal
Cardinal George Pell was convicted of historical child sex offences in February. In August his appeal to have the conviction…
Cardinal George Pell was convicted of historical child sex offences in February. In August his appeal to have the conviction overturned was rejected. Now the disgraced cardinal has lodged an appeal with the High Court.
George Pell has lodged his High Court appeal in a last ditch bid to overturn his convictions.Ads by Kiosked
The convicted sex offender is serving a minimum three year and eight month jail term for the abuse of two choir boys at St Patrick’s Cathedral while he was archbishop of Melbourne in the mid 1990s.
He has spent more than 200 days in maximum security 23-hour lockdown since being taken into custody in February.
His legal team has been working around the clock preparing the High Court challenge, after the Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed his case in a 2-1 majority ruling last month.
His lawyers can lodge no more than 12 pages arguing their application for special leave to appeal.
The application argues Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell made two significant errors in dismissing Pell’s appeal in their majority ruling.
They argue that:
1. The majority of the Court of Appeal erred by finding their belief in the complainant required Pell’s team to establish the offending was impossible in order to raise and leave a doubt.
2. The majority erred in not finding the guilty verdicts unreasonable because there remained a reasonable doubt as to the existence of any opportunity for the offending to have occurred.
They instead argue that dissenting appeal justice Mark Weinberg correctly found the case couldn’t be proven beyond reasonable doubt.
The appeal documents also argue a change in evidence laws over several decades have made it “more difficult to test allegations of sexual assault”.
The application could be decided “on the papers” meaning no court date is required or Pell’s lawyers will be given 20 minutes to articulate their case at a hearing.
If leave to appeal is granted, a substantial appeal hearing will follow.
University of Melbourne law professor Jeremy Gans said unless the matter was expedited, it could struggle to get before the court this year.
He said a similar case earlier this year took five months to reach the court meaning the Pell appeal wouldn’t get underway until early next year.
“But there’s no timeline and the Court can go at the pace it wants,” Professor Gans said.
“The Court also sometimes moves quickly because it is concerned that the punishment may be mostly served by the time the matter is heard, assuming no bail is granted, and also if there are health concerns, and both of those things may be a factor in this case,” he said.
Professor Gans said if leave was granted, a judgment could be expected within six months.
Despite no immediate plans to move Pell from solitary confinement, where he remains inside the Melbourne Assessment Prison, friends say he remains in good spirits.
But he is anxious about the High Court challenge because he knows it is his last hope to prove his vehemently maintained innocence.
There was wide speculation Pell would be moved to a mainstream prison after the Court of Appeal dismissed his case.
However it is understood there are grave concerns about potential attacks on Pell, one of the state’s most high profile prisoners, if he is not kept isolated from other prisoners.
It is feared he could come under attack from prisoner child sexual abuse victims for his perceived failure to stop child abuse within the church.
He is allowed visitors just twice a week, and they must come from a list of 10 approved visitors.
The list is understood to be constantly changing, with Pell recently requesting to see certain close friends.