$3m legal bill for Cardinal Pell to clear his name

Pell legal bill

The legal bill for Cardinal George Pell to defend sex crime charges amounted to A$3m (NZ$3.2m). The charges were eventually thrown out by the High Court.

Pell confirmed there was still a “significant” amount of money to be paid, despite having walked free more than a year ago.

Cardinal Pell’s legal team initially applied for $800,000 in costs. Most of the 26 original charges fell away in the early phase of the battle.

On Friday, the Archdiocese of Sydney said Cardinal Pell had received $390,000 in costs from the state of Victoria after the hung jury of the first County Court trial.

The defence attracted some of the brightest legal minds in the country, as well as a small army of help from Melbourne instructing solicitors.

An archdiocese spokesman said Cardinal Pell, 80, had not had any of his legal defence covered by the church. However, Pell was afforded the same help as other retired clergy.

“The church does not fund criminal defences as it has consistently maintained. Cardinal Pell is retired. Any matters related to his legal affairs are private,” he said.

It is almost four years since Cardinal Pell was initially charged with the 26 offences. Most of which were withdrawn or dropped or didn’t pass the committal phase.

Pell was eventually convicted of sexually molesting two 13-year-old choir boys in the sacristy of Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.

After a first jury was deadlocked, he was then sentenced to six years in prison.

The High Court found reasonable doubt in the testimony of his sole living accuser. His story was deemed improbable because of the timing, nature and location of the alleged offending.

Lawyer Peter Kelso, who specialises in abuse cases, said the large sum spent defending Cardinal Pell showed that celebrities and the wealthy had a better opportunity to fight allegations.

“When you have the money, you can afford a full-on defence,” he said. “That is, you can afford not only the lawyers but their team behind them. The ordinary punter accused of anything can’t afford that.”

Pell has written about the experience he had during thirteen months of detention in his book “Prison Journal”. “It helped me to live my sufferings by associating them with those of Jesus. I have always believed that God was behind everything that was happening to me.”


The Australian


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