Cardinal George Pell To Walk Free From Prison After High Court Grants Appeal
| Last updated
The High Court of Australia has granted George Pell's appeal over his conviction for historical child sexual abuse.
Pell was found guilty in December 2018 on four counts of an indecent act with a child under 16, and on one count of sexual penetration.
The 78-year-old was accused of abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral in the late 1990s.
However, after taking the matter to the country's highest court, Pell has had his convictions overturned.
The High Court of Australia has released its decision, saying: "The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.
"Their Honours went on to consider the evidence of a number of 'opportunity witnesses', who had described the movements of the applicant and others following the conclusion of Sunday solemn Mass in a way that was inconsistent with the complainant's account.
"Their Honours found that no witness could say with certainty that these routines and practices were never departed from and concluded that the jury had not been compelled to entertain a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt.
"The Court held that, on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant's evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents."
The Court decided to quash the conviction and order an acquittal based on 'a significant possibility that
an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite
standard of proof'.
The decision to acquit does not mean Pell was found not guilty, simply that there wasn't enough evidence to uphold his conviction.
There will be no retrial or further legal proceedings in Australia. After more than 400 days in prison, Pell will be able to walk free.
Victoria Police have released a statement, saying: "We respect the decision of the High Court in this matter and continue to provide support to those complainants involved.
"Victoria Police remains committed to investigating sexual assault offences and providing justice for victims no matter how many years have passed.
"We would also like to acknowledge the tireless work on this case by Taskforce Sano investigators over many years."