Australian Cardinal George Pell, former “number 3” of the Vatican, is waging his last legal battle this week before the Australian High Court to reverse his six-year prison sentence for sexual abuse of two minors in the 1990s.
In one case that has shocked Australia, the plenary session of the Superior Court magistrates will analyze on March 11 and 12 “all the arguments” to first decide whether to admit the appeal and, in that case, whether to accept or reject the appeal of the sentence.
The hearing, which the 78-year-old cardinal will not attend, will not be broadcast live.
THE PELL ARGUMENTS
Pell, who is in a high-security prison in the state of Victoria, was sentenced in March 2019 to six years in prison for five counts of sexual abuse – including one for oral penetration – committed against two children of the Cathedral choir St Patrick’s in 1996 and 1997, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
He was convicted by a judge of a Melbourne Court after a jury found him guilty in a process that relied primarily on the testimony of one of the two victims, who reported him in 2014 after the other died of an overdose.
Pell, who defends his innocence, appealed the conviction, but last August, two of three judges of the Supreme Court of the state of Victoria, based in Melbourne, dismissed by majority the appeal of Pell, while the other inclined to grant it.
In the ruling, Pell’s arguments that questioned the veracity of the victim’s testimony and the possibility that the jury could have issued a verdict beyond reasonable doubt were rejected.
According to a document presented to the High Court by defense attorney Brett Walker, the two judges who confirmed the conviction “were wrong, since, in light of the discoveries made by them, there is a reasonable doubt of the existence of any opportunity to that the crime has occurred. “
THE LIKELY SCENARIOS
If the highest judicial instance in the country rejects the admission of the appeal, Pell will remain in prison until at least 2022, the year in which he may request parole, and his name will be kept in the pedophile registry.
In other potential scenarios, if the Court accepts the appeal, an appeal process would be initiated, which would open the possibility for Pell to go free, and even for the Victoria Court of Appeals to review the case again.
After knowing his guilt in February 2019, the Vatican announced that Pell would cease to hold the post of prefect of Economy, considered the “number three” of the Holy See, and he was forbidden from public exercise of the priestly ministry and contact, in any way and form, with minors.