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Cardinal George Pell's appeal against sex offences dismissed

Author
news.com.au,
Section
World,
Publish Date
Wednesday, 21 August 2019, 11:42AM
Cardinal George Pell was jailed for six years in March for historical sex offences during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell was jailed for six years in March for historical sex offences during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne. Photo / AP

Cardinal George Pell's appeal against a conviction for sex offences during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne has been denied by the Victorian Supreme Court.

Pell lost his bid for freedom with his appeal against child sex convictions dismissed in court this morning.

By a majority of two to one, the Court of Appeal dismissed his appeal.

Pell, 78, sat for an agonising 40 minutes in front of three judges — Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg.

He shared the courtroom with the world's media, his own supporters and the family members of the two boys he was found guilty of sexually abusing in 1996.

And the entire hearing was broadcast to the world live.

Pell is now likely to take the case before Australia's final arbiter, the High Court of Australia.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court in Melbourne today. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court in Melbourne today. Photo / AP

Pell was jailed for six years in March for historical sex offences during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne. He was convicted of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral and grabbing a 13-year-old choirboy's genitals in a hallway at the same church two months later.

One of the two choirboys was a key prosecution witness. The other died of an overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without ever complaining that he had been abused.

Pell has always maintained his innocence.

The judgment comes as prison authorities from the Melbourne Assessment Prison investigate a letter purporting to be from Pell that was circulated on social media earlier this month.

The letter, dated August 1, was sent around by supporters. It read: "My faith in our Lord, like yours, is a source of strength" and: "The knowledge that my small suffering can be used for good purposes through being joined to Jesus' suffering gives me purpose and direction."

Prison rules forbid prisoners from posting on social media, using the internet, or asking others to post on their behalf.

Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of abusing two choirboys in March. Photo / AP
Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of abusing two choirboys in March. Photo / AP

Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli told the ABC last week that he had visited Pell in prison and the 78-year-old's mental state was "a bit like a calm in a storm".

Comensoli said Pell's imprisonment — being held in protective custody as a convicted paedophile and spending 23 hours a day alone in his cell — "takes its toll".

"There'd be a psychological agitation about waiting for what's going to be the outcome of the appeal, but I found him strong … spiritually and calm and very conversive," Comensoli said.

Pell's appeal hung on key arguments outlined during earlier hearings. His lawyers argued that he had an alibi, that the attacks could not have happened where and when they did and that a priest who may have given contradictory evidence was never interviewed.

Bret Walker SC told the court it was "literally impossible" for the offences to have taken place in the five to six minute time frame accepted by the jury — given the "activities, rituals, practices and customary traditions" that would have been taking place in the church at the time.

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