Allegations of abuse: acquittal of Cardinal Pell

DCardinal George Pell, convicted of sexual abuse, is surprisingly released. The highest Australian court granted the 78-year-old minister’s appeal on Tuesday. The former number three in the Vatican is expected to be released later this day in a maximum security prison near Melbourne. Because of the corona virus restrictions, Supreme Judge Susan Kiefel pronounced the verdict in an almost empty courtroom in Brisbane.

The court has been dealing with Pell’s last possible appeal since March. In making its decision, the court followed the defense’s arguments, which indicated weaknesses in testimony.

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In March 2019, the former Archbishop of Melbourne was sentenced to six years in prison for abusing two choir boys in the 1990s. He rejects all allegations. The former Vatican chief of finance is the highest ranking clergyman in the history of the Catholic Church convicted of child abuse. The statement of an earlier choir boy, who is now in his mid-30s, was decisive.

Not enough evidence

Pell’s defense lawyers argued that this was insufficient to establish the cardinal’s guilt beyond any doubt. Another argument: after a Sunday mass, it was impossible for an archbishop to be alone with two choir boys in the sacristy for five or six minutes – this is how it should have been in an assault.

In the other case, for which Pell was convicted, there were no witnesses, according to his defense. The prosecution also reversed the burden of proof: instead of proving Pell’s guilt, the defense had to prove his innocence.

Pell’s first attempt to have the judgment pronounced in March 2019 overturned by an appeals court failed in August. Accordingly, Pell could have been released from custody in October 2022 at the earliest. After the decision of the court of appeal, the lawyers appealed to the highest court, so that the latter now dealt with it.


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