Cardinal Pell appeal gets underway

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Cardinal George Pell is seen at the Vatican press office in this 2017 file photo. Photo: CNS, Paul Haring

A Melbourne court has begun hearing Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction for child sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell was found guilty by a jury last December of abusing two boys inside St Patrick’s Melbourne cathedral in 1996. He was jailed in February for six years.

The former Prefect of the Economy of the Vatican is the most senior Catholic figure to be convicted of such crimes.

Two days set aside

However the Cardinal had strenuously maintained his innocence, arguing the verdict was unreasonable.

The hearing, which began today, is set to run over two days in Victoria’s Supreme Court.

Cardinal Pell was transported from prison to the court in a van, wearing a black suit and his clerical collar.

The Cardinal’s lawyers argued three fundamental grounds for his conviction to be quashed, including that evidence in Cardinal Pell’s original trial had proved the offenses for which he was convicted could not have taken place.

Cardinal’s defence

They argue the verdicts were unreasonable and could not be supported in view of the original evidence submitted for the defence by more than 20 witnesses.

They argue the trial Judge erred by preventing the defence from using a moving visual representation of its impossibility argument during the closing address.

Meanwhile, say the Cardinal’s legal team, there was a fundamental irregularity in the original trial process because the accused was not arraigned in the presence of the jury panel, as required by the Criminal Procedure Act 2009.

Significant wait on decision

The appeal is being heard by heard by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Anne Ferguson, the president of the Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg.

A decision on the appeal could be weeks or months away and if unsuccessful, Cardinal Pell has declared he won’t appeal the sentence.