SYDNEY – Australian Cardinal George Pell, convicted to six years in prison for abusing two boys in the 1990s, will find out the fate of his appeal on Aug. 21.
The Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne announced early Thursday that it will hand down its judgment on the 78-year-old cardinal’s appeal, presented in early July, next Wednesday from 9:30 am.
Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, who will decide the outcome along with two other judges, is scheduled to read out the conclusions of the ruling in a session that will be livestreamed, according to judicial sources.
The judges can uphold the conviction, order a retrial or acquit Pell, which means that the cardinal – the Catholic Church’s most senior official to be convicted of child sexual abuse – could be released immediately.
The former third-ranking Vatican official and finance minister was convicted in December 2018 after a jury found him guilty on five counts of child sexual abuse against two choirboys at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne between 1996-97. The verdict was not reported until February due to a suppression order.
The decision was reached unanimously in a second trial, after the first had resulted in a hung jury.
Pell’s defense has presented three arguments in the appeal. One underlines that the jury could not have found him guilty “beyond all reasonable doubt” based on evidence presented at the trial.
The other two arguments, more technical in nature, denounce that the defense was not allowed to present a 19-minute animated video reconstructing the incidents that allegedly showed how Pell could not have committed the abuses, and that Pell was not arraigned – or asked to plead guilty or not guilty – in front of the jury as required.
The cardinal, whose defense will need to convince two of the three judges to be successful, has been in jail since February and will remain behind bars until the court delivers its verdict.
Irrespective of the outcome of this appeal, Pell could still appeal the decision in the High Court, as could prosecutors.