High Court to consider Cardinal Pell case today

Cardinal George Pell leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in 2018 (CNS/Mark Dadswell, Reuters)

Cardinal George Pell's future could be decided by Australia's highest court this week, with the full bench of the High Court hearing his legal team’s final bid for his freedom in Canberra today. Source: AAP/7 News.

By Karen Sweeney, AAP

The 78-year-old was jailed for six years last year for sexually abusing two choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral, shortly after being appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

He was convicted by a jury in 2018 of the rape of one 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another. The first boy gave evidence against Cardinal Pell while the second died in 2014.

Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence.

Victoria's Court of Appeal last year upheld the verdict in a 2-1 ruling.

The High Court has not formally granted Cardinal Pell's application for appeal, instead referring it "for argument".

That means after the hearing, which is scheduled to continue tomorrow, the court could refuse the application for special leave, or approve it and either allow or dismiss the appeal.

Cardinal Pell's lawyers are arguing the appeal on two grounds.

First they say the Court of Appeal majority - Chief Justice Ann Ferguson and President Chris Maxwell - made an error in that Cardinal Pell was required to prove the offending was "impossible" in order to raise reasonable doubt against the surviving boy's evidence.

The third judge, Justice Mark Weinberg, found in favour of Cardinal Pell's appeal.

Secondly, they argue the majority found there was a reasonable doubt as to the existence of any opportunity for Cardinal Pell to have offended, so they made an error in concluding the guilty verdicts were not unreasonable.

They want his convictions on five charges to be quashed, which would mean he is released from prison immediately.

Last month it was revealed the High Court had also raised legal questions over the use of video evidence in Cardinal Pell's previous appeal, rather than relying on written transcripts alone.


High Court to hear Pell appeal this week (AAP/7News)

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