Asia & Australia

March 17, 2020

Australian Court reserves decision on Caerdinal George Pell’s fate

[ by Legal Era News Network ]


George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic and the former financial controller of the Vatican, was convicted in December 2018 on five charges of sexually abusing two 13 year-old choir boys in the priest’s sacristy after Sunday solemn mass when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. He was accused of assaulting one of the boys again a few weeks later.

Currently, Pell is one year in to serving a six year prison sentence, with a non-parole period of three years and eight months.

The full bench of a Canberra High Court has reserved its decision about whether to grant Cardinal George Pell special leave to appeal his case for a final time, after listening to two days of arguments from his barrister and the prosecution.

A seven judge Bench asked for further written submissions from the legal parties and have given them two business days to deliver. The bench will then consider those materials before returning to deliver their decision at a date yet to be determined. Once they return to court, if the court does grant special leave, the bench may then immediately decide whether to accept the arguments from Pell’s team and acquit him, or they could dismiss the appeal in which case the verdict would hold.

The director of the Office of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd was questioned by the Bench about the decision of Victoria’s appellate court to watch video evidence from the complainant in Pell’s trial, asking whether it may have caused the majority of judges to give too much weight to the complainant’s compelling and believable demeanour rather than the trial evidence as a whole.

According to Pell’s legal team, the witness should have called the credibility of the complainant into doubt and raised reasonable doubt as to Pell’s offending was Monsignor Charles Portelli. Portelli gave evidence at trial that it was Pell’s practice to remain on the front steps of St. Patrick’s Cathedral after Sunday solemn mass greeting parishioners. If this were the case, he could not have been in the priest’s sacristy abusing two choirboys.

But Judd responded that Portelli did not have convincing specific recollection of what Pell did on the dates in 1996 when the offending occurred. Portelli could not even remember if the choir processed out of the buildings on those occasions internally or externally, she said.

Judd told the bench that the complainant’s accurate description of the priest’s sacristy which was off-limits to choir boys and where the abuse occurred added to his truthfulness.

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