Cardinal George Pell’s final opportunity in court nears

Cardinal George Pell’s final opportunity to have his conviction for sexually abusing two 13-year old choirboys overturned is only a month away.

His lawyers will be pleading his case in the High Court of Australia March 11-12.

Although the hearing is only weeks away, the full bench of Australia’s highest court — either five or all seven justices — will take several months.

In the meantime, Pell will remain, as he has been since his March 2019 sentencing, in virtual solitary confinement in a provincial prison.

If the High Court does not overturn the jury’s verdict that found Pell guilty of four counts of sexual assault and one count of child rape, the 78-year old prelate will spend the remainder of his minimum three years and eight month sentence (maximum six years) in jail.

Chief Justice Peter Kidd of the Victorian Supreme Court, who handed down the sentence, described Pell’s offences as “a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims”.

Pell’s first appeal was dismissed two-to-one by a panel of judges of the Victorian Supreme Court in August.

Once the court proceedings conclude, Vatican officials have said they will pursue an investigation of the prelate who has been the most powerful figure in the Australian Catholic Church for more than two decades.

Pell’s case has generated global publicity and particularly in Australia where a landmark Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse was critical of the Catholic Church in its findings.

On the one hand critics of Pell’s convictions, including outspoken senior Catholic lawyers, politicians and conservative commentators, claim he is the victim of a witch hunt against the church.

On the other hand, media outlets openly defied judge Peter Kidd’s suppression order on 25 June 2018 to prevent “a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice”.

Although media outlets initially faced numerous charges over the breach, many of these charges have since been dropped.

Victoria’s director of public prosecutions has dropped an additional 28 charges, including against reporters associated with the Age, Brisbane Times and WA Today.

Charges have also been dropped against Fairfax Media, because it was taken over by Nine Entertainment, and the Canberra Times.

But 100 charges are continuing against 30 Australian news organisations and editorial staff, including six individuals at News Corp, for contempt of court.



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News category: World.