Full bench reserves decision in Cardinal Pell case

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne on Februrary 27, 2019. (CNS/Daniel Pockett, AAP images via Reuters)

The High Court will decide the fate of Cardinal George Pell on a date to be fixed after the full bench reserved its decision on whether he was wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting two choirboys. Source: The Age.

By Chip Le Grand, The Age

A two-day hearing in Canberra ended with counsel for Cardinal Pell, Bret Walker SC, savaging the “improvised and rickety construction of a Crown case to make something fit that will not fit” and Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd QC urging the court not to acquit Cardinal Pell even if he wins his appeal.

Ms Judd said if the court found that Victoria’s Court of Appeal had erred in law when it upheld Cardinal Pell’s conviction for child sex offences, it should send the matter back to the court to be heard again.

This was rejected by Mr Walker, who said it would be an injustice to send the case back to the Court of Appeal “to have another go".

“We win this argument, we wish the matter to be over,’’ he said.

It was a testing day for Ms Judd, who was rebuked by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel for failing to take the court to the necessary material.

However, it appears unlikely this case will be decided by the strength of the advocacy. Rather, it will come down to whether the High Court believes that the Court of Appeal majority placed too much weight on the credibility of Cardinal Pell’s accuser, the surviving former choirboy, and not enough on the witness testimony which threw up multiple obstacles to the crimes taking placed as alleged.

A critical question before the court is whether Victoria’s Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell's majority decision, which upheld the verdict against Cardinal Pell, in effect forced the defence to prove that it was impossible for the sexual assaults to have occurred, instead of requiring the prosecution to eliminate all reasonable doubt.

Cardinal Pell was jailed for six years for four counts of child sex offences and is serving a minimum term of three years and eight months. The High Court reserved its decision on whether to grant Cardinal Pell special leave to appeal and the merits of the appeal.

FULL STORY

High Court reserves its decision on the fate of George Pell (The Age)

RELATED COVERAGE

George Pell appeal: Times were not exact, DPP admits (The Australian)

Judges grill prosecutor over Pell conviction (The Financial Review)

George Pell: high court reserves decision on granting special leave for an appeal (The Guardian)

High Court reserves decision on whether to overturn George Pell's convictions for child sexual abuse (ABC News)

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