Pell’s last chance – special leave to appeal lodged

George Pell’s legal team has applied to Australia’s High Court for special leave to appeal the jailed cardinal’s child sex abuse conviction.

Although special leave cases are not usually granted by the High Court, it’s possible Pell’s could be accepted.

This is because judges at his appeal could not agree about Pell’s guilt or innocence.

Only two of the three Victorian Appeal Court judges deemed him guilty of the sex abuse accusations of which he had been convicted.

He was found guilty by a jury last year of sex offences against two teenage choirboys after Mass at in 1996 while he was archbishop.

One of the former choirboys gave evidence at Pell’s trials.

The other died in 2014 from a drug overdose. His family says his death was linked to post-traumatic stress disorder from the abuse.

Chief judge Anne Ferguson and the president of the court Chris Maxwell found the former choirboy to be a truthful witness. They said Pell’s conviction should stand.

Judge Mark Weinberg does not share their opinion.

He found the complainant embellished his account at times. In his opinion, Pell should be acquitted.

Pell’s barristers say the Court mistakenly reversed the onus of proof when hearing his case.

This forced Pell to prove it was impossible for him to sexually assault the two choirboys in a cathedral.

His legal team also says there is reasonable doubt about the existence of an opportunity for the attack to have occurred.

Pell is now exercising his last legal avenue to overturn his conviction.

Unless he is granted the right to appeal and has his conviction overturned, Pell will continue to serve his six-year prison sentence.

He must serve at least three years and eight months before being eligible to apply for parole.

The Vatican is waiting for the outcome of this final appeal process before ruling on Pell’s status in the Church.

In the meantime, he remains an archbishop and a member of the College of Cardinals.

Pell has not been permitted to celebrate Mass in prison.

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