International News

Australia Court to Announce Ruling on Pell’s Appeal of Abuse Convictions

Australian Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne Feb. 26, 2019. (Photo: CNS/Erik Anderson/AAP Images/ Reuters)

The Tablet Staff

On August 20, the Victoria state Court of Appeal will determine the fate of Cardinal George Pell, one of Catholic Church’s highest ranking members in Australia. Pell has been in a Melbourne prison since March after being convicted on five counts of abusing minors. 

Over the course of two days this past June, a three-judge panel from the Appeals Division of the Supreme Court of Victoria heard arguments from Pell’s lawyers and prosecutors regarding the appeal of his conviction. Pell’s lawyers arguing the grounds for the appeal include his guilty verdict despite the lack of proof beyond reasonable doubt.

Pell, who is currently serving a six year prison sentence, has been awaiting the outcome of his appeal in protective custody. He spends 23 hours a day in solitary confinement. 

Pell could be released from prison if the Appeals Court overturns the convictions. Alternatively, the Justices could call for a retrial and allow him to be released on bail. The court could also reject his appeal all together. 

During the appeals hearing, Pell’s attorneys provided written documentation arguing that 20 witnesses present at a Sunday Mass in 1996 on the day Pell molested two choirboys, indicated that the events did not or could not have occurred in the timeframe in which prosecutors alleged. 

According to the Associated Press, Pell’s legal team also provided a video depiction which they say demonstrates that the alleged crimes committed during that Sunday would have been impossible. 

At the appeals hearing the prosecution countered that the testimony as to the turn of events from one of the victims was credible. The second person involved in the incident  a choirboy at the time later died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31.

Over the past two weeks, prison authorities have also been investigating an August 1 letter shared online by a Twitter account called “Cardinal George Pell Supporters,” according to Crux

“Any prisoner found to be contravening prison regulations faces disciplinary action,” a spokeswoman from the prison where Pell is being held told the press. “(The department) will thoroughly investigate this social media activity,” she continued. 

Individuals held in prison are forbidden from using social media or the internet and are not allowed to have others post online on their behalf. It has not been determined whether the letter was written by Pell.