BY Ryan McDougall | November 13 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

Cardinal_George_Pell

Cardinal Pell granted final chance to challenge court

Cardinal George Pell has been granted a final chance to challenge his child sexual abuse convictions by the High Court of Australia.

Justices Michelle Gordon and James Edelman announced of Wednesday November 13, before the SCO went to press, that they referred the cardinal’s appeal application to a full seven member court.

The move means the court will decide whether to hear the appeal and if it does, will hear arguments about why the conviction should be overturned or upheld.

Judges have given the cardinal’s lawyers until January 8 2019 to file their arguments for the appeal and stated prosecutors must respond by February.

Hearing date

While no date for the hearing has been announced, it is unlikely to be before March.

Matteo Bruni, a spokesman for the Vatican, said that while ‘reiterating its trust in the Australian justice system, the Holy See acknowledges the decision of Australia’s High Court to accept Cardinal George Pell’s request of appeal, aware that the cardinal has always maintained his innocence.”

He added: “At the same time, the Holy See reaffirms once again its closeness to those who have suffered because of sexual abuse n the part of members of the clergy.”

Conviction

A jury in December 2018 unanimously found the cardinal, 78, guilty of the sexual abuse of two 13-year-old choirboys in St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne in the 1990s. In August, the conviction was upheld two-to-one by a panel of justices on the Victorian Court of Appeal.

If the court chooses not to hear the appeal, Cardinal Pell will serve out his remaining sentence at Melbourne Assessment Prison, where he has been held since late February. The non-parole period expires in 2022.

If the court does hear the appeal, each judge will make their own decision and give reasons. A majority will decide the case.

Options

Options include rejecting the appeal, leaving the cardinal to serve out his term, or to acquit him, meaning he will walk free.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane, Australia, president of the Bishops’ Conference of Australia, said: “This will prolong what has been a lengthy and difficult process, but we can only hope that the appeal will be heard as soon as reasonably possible and that the high court’s judgment will bring clarity and a resolution for all.”

The Congregation of the Doctrine of Faith announced in February it had begun a canonical investigation of the cardinal.

In August, it was announced the process will officially begin after the Australian legal process ends.

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