AUSTRALIA, April 2, 2020, LifeSiteNews:
The Australian High Court has announced that it will hand down its judgment on Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his convictions for historic child sex offenses next Tuesday, April 7.
Australia’s top court held two days of an appeal hearing last month, with one legal expert present at the hearing saying he believes that it is a possibility that Pell will be acquitted and the Australian media reporting that the second day of the hearing as having been a “good day” for the cardinal.
A jury found Pell guilty of two counts of sexual assault against a child on December 11, 2018. He has always denied the charges, which hinge on the uncorroborated testimony of one person. Last year, the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the guilty verdict.
During last month’s appeal hearing, Pell’s prosecutors, led by Victorian director of public prosecutions Kerry Judd QC, shifted their position on key evidence relating to Pell’s alleged sexual assault of two choirboys after Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
The prosecution has previously argued that there was a five- to six-minute window of opportunity during private prayer time immediately after Mass for Pell to have committed the offenses. But last month, Judd changed her position, saying instead that it could not be stated for certain how long the private prayer time had lasted.
Several witnesses, including Church officials, have testified that Pell — who had recently been appointed the archbishop of Melbourne at the time of the alleged offense — would never have been alone in the cathedral. Moreover, they say it was his invariable practice to greet churchgoers at the front doors of the building immediately after Mass ended. Pell’s defense has also pointed out that he would have been fully vested immediately after Mass, making the logistics of the alleged offenses highly improbable.
Pell was not permitted to attend the hearing and remained in a maximum-security prison in Victoria.
Following last month’s hearing, John Macauley, a former altar server at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne who was present in court throughout, said that “the crown’s case had collapsed under the weight of its own malicious absurdity.”
Pell’s supporters are therefore hopeful that the justices will acquit the cardinal and order his immediate release.
However, it is possible that the court will decline even to consider Pell’s appeal, meaning he would have to serve a minimum prison term of three years and eight months.
Another possibility is for the case to be returned to the Victorian Court of Appeal, which upheld Pell’s original conviction in August last year. The High Court could also order a full retrial, which would effectively send the legal battle back to the very beginning.