Australian Cardinal George Pell's Sex Assault Appeal Dismissed

Thursday, 22 Aug, 2019

In March of this year he was found guilty on five charges of sexual abuse on two 13-year-old choir boys in Saint Patrick's Cathedral in the late 1990s, while he was the Archbishop of Melbourne.

The high-profile case pitted the 78-year-old - who previously helped elect Popes, was a trusted papal aide and was involved in the church's response to child sex abuse claims - against a former choirboy now in his thirties.

Pell's main ground of appeal was that his guilty verdicts were unreasonable and evidence presented to the jury could not support a guilty verdict.

In December a jury found Cardinal Pell - the former Archbishop of Melbourne - guilty of sexually abusing two choirboys in 1996.

That questions and doubts will persist regarding whether justice has been done upon Cardinal Pell, was also inevitable.

The case was unusual in that it relied heavily on the closed-door testimony of the sole surviving victim, who can not be named for legal reasons.

The two judges "accepted the prosecution's submission that the complainant was a very compelling witness, clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth", Ferguson said.

What did the trial hear?

Pell was convicted by a 12-member jury in December, largely on the testimony of one accuser, a man now in his 30s who, as an alleged sex abuse victim, can't be identified under Australian law. Pell offended again against one of the boys about a month later, when he grabbed the boy's genitals in the church corridor, once more after Sunday solemn mass.

The complainant said his friend's funeral four years ago, who died after a drug overdose directly linked to his PTSD from Pell's abuse, gave him a "responsibility to come forward".

A jury rejected the defence argument that the allegations were fantasies.

Pell's conviction has shaken an institution accused of being tone deaf to the pain of victims, and victims' groups want immediate and decisive action from the Pope.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Victorian County Court in Melbourne, Victoria, in February.

Unlike Pell, McCarrick's case was not the subject of a trial.

For now, the Holy See has revealed it will wait until Pell has exhausted every avenue for appeal - and that investigative work had not yet begun.

After the judgement was read out, Pell - wearing his priestly robes for likely the last ever time - was escorted to a prisoner transport van and taken back to jail.

Occasionally, he looked down, his gaunt features betraying no emotion.

Child sex abuse survivor Phil Nagle said not being believed was "a very hard thing to deal with", in addition to the abuse itself.

Cardinal Pell stood stoic in the prisoner's dock while the decision was explained.

Campaigners accept, however, that Pell's fight for freedom probably isn't over and that a final court challenge could remain. The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from.

The bishops also say they "realize that this has been and remains a most hard time for survivors of child sexual abuse and those who support them".

Flynn said a Pell win would be "devastating" for the father, but the father would continue with a civil suit against Pell and the church regardless of the outcome.

Will there be another appeal?

The Vatican said in a statement that it "acknowledges" the court's decision to dismiss the appeal, but that Pell "has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court".

This was despite the graphic details of the assaults that were heard in court.

What does the Church say?

Mr Morrison today reflected on the ruling and said Cardinal Pell's honours - in being appointed to the Order of Australia - would be stripped.

Cardinal Pell was demoted from the Pope's inner circle past year. From 2014 until earlier this year, when his term expired, he was Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy.