Cardinal George Pell’s lawyers have lodged a High Court challenge to his conviction, saying he was asked to prove the impossible by two appeal court judges. Source: The Australian.
His lawyers argue that Victoria’s Court of Appeal mistakenly reversed the onus of proof when hearing his case, forcing him to prove it was impossible for him to sexually assault two choirboys in a cathedral.
In their application, Cardinal Pell’s barristers, Bret Walker SC and Ruth Shann, said the two judges who upheld Cardinal Pell’s convictions “erred by finding their belief in the complainant required (Pell) to establish the offending was impossible in order to raise and leave a doubt”.
They further argued that there was reasonable doubt about the existence of an opportunity for the attack to have occurred.
Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a jury last year of sex offences against two teenage choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral after Solemn Mass in Melbourne in 1996.
His Pell’s appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal was rejected last month in a 2-1 majority decision.
Chief judge Anne Ferguson and the president of the court Chris Maxwell found the surviving choirboy and complainant in the case was a truthful witness and the conviction should stand.
But judge Mark Weinberg found the complainant embellished his account at times and argued that the cardinal should be acquitted.
There is no guarantee the High Court will hear the case; that decision will be made by a panel of two or three judges in a special leave hearing.
In their appeal application, Cardinal Pell’s legal team claim justices Ferguson and Maxwell, referred to as the majority, examined each piece of evidence in isolation to determine whether the jury should doubt the allegations. The lawyers claim this was an error in approach that “infected” the treatment of the body of evidence, which contradicted the choirboy’s account.
“Though the majority said … that there was no onus on (Pell) to prove impossibility that is precisely what their analysis required him to do,” the application states.
They argued that the approach taken by the majority judges required Cardinal Pell to “establish actual innocence”, rather than “merely pointing to doubt”.
“This was a reversal of the onus and standard of proof.”
Justice Weinberg’s dissenting judgment should be accepted as a correct interpretation of the evidence, Cardinal Pell’s lawyers argue, saying that an inability to find the complainant a liar didn’t determine proof beyond reasonable doubt.
Cardinal George Pell lodges High Court appeal (The Australian)
A state’s system of justice put on trial (The Australian)
George Pell lodges High Court appeal (The Age)