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Byron Shire
December 5, 2023

Pell freed in unanimous decision

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‘Judgment has been delivered in Pell v The Queen’ – this in a tweet from the High Court of Australia just after 10am this morning.

This short sentence has sent shock waves across the country. Many can’t believe that this is the result of George Pell’s appeal.

A link to the document was released via Twitter today:

‘The High Court granted special leave to appeal against a decision of the Court of Appeal of the Supreme Court of Victoria and unanimously allowed the appeal.

‘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.

‘On 11 December 2018, following a trial by jury in the County Court of Victoria, the applicant, who was Archbishop of Melbourne at the time of the alleged offending, was convicted of one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years and four charges of committing an act of indecency with or in the presence of a child under the age of 16 years.

‘This was the second trial of these charges, the jury at the first trial having been unable to agree on its verdicts. The prosecution case, as it was left to the jury, alleged that the offending occurred on two separate occasions, the first on 15 or 22 December 1996 and the second on 23 February 1997.

‘The incidents were alleged to have occurred in and near the priests’ sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne, following the celebration of Sunday solemn Mass. The victims of the alleged offending were two Cathedral choirboys aged 13 years at the time of the events.

‘The applicant sought leave to appeal against his convictions before the Court of Appeal.

‘On 21 August 2019 the Court of Appeal granted leave on a single ground, which contended that the verdicts were unreasonable or could not be supported by the evidence, and dismissed the appeal. The Court of Appeal viewed video-recordings of a number of witnesses’ testimony, including that of the complainant.

‘The majority, Ferguson CJ and Maxwell P, assessed the complainant to be a compelling witness. 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. Weinberg JA dissented, concluding that, by reason of the unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses, the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have had a reasonable doubt.

‘On 17 September 2019, the applicant applied to the High Court for special leave to appeal from the Court of Appeal’s decision on two grounds.

‘On 13 November 2019, Gordon and Edelman JJ referred the application for special leave to a Full Court of the High Court for argument as on an appeal. The application was heard by the High Court on 11 and 12 March 2020.

‘The High Court considered that, while the Court of Appeal majority assessed the evidence of the opportunity witnesses as leaving open the possibility that the complainant’s account was correct, their Honours’ analysis failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.

‘The unchallenged evidence of the opportunity witnesses was 7 April 2020 2 inconsistent with the complainant’s account, and described: (i) the applicant’s practice of greeting congregants on or near the Cathedral steps after Sunday solemn Mass; (ii) the established and historical Catholic church practice that required that the applicant, as an archbishop, always be accompanied when robed in the Cathedral; and (iii) the continuous traffic in and out of the priests’ sacristy for ten to 15 minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended Sunday solemn Mass.

‘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.

‘With respect to each of the applicant’s convictions, there was, consistently with the words the Court used in Chidiac v The Queen (1991) 171 CLR 432 at 444 and M v The Queen (1994) 181 CLR 487 at 494, “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.

‘This statement is not intended to be a substitute for the reasons of the High Court or to be used in any later consideration of the Court’s reasons.’

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  1. While it has been “many moons” since I have had any repect for the law , this IS a new low .
    Kiddy Fiddlers with enough power and money will be protected by the judges. Makes you wonder how much the catholic schools contribute to the judiciary. Obviously enough !
    Cheers, G”)

  2. Notice the timing ?

    Like a lot of shifty politicians (Daniel Andrews withdrawing the moratorium on fracking) the High Court has chosen a time while we are all distracted to announce one of the worst travesties I’ve witnessed in my 65 years !!!

  3. Those victims that have not come forward with complaints that were happy to leave it to those that did should immediately reconsider so charges can be laid, Pell arrested and taken to Court on those victims new charges!

  4. Regardless of the decision, a number of civil cases are due to be launched against Cardinal Pell, either by people who alleged they were abused by him or who allege he did nothing to prevent their abuse at the hands of other priests.

    The fat lady hasn’t finished singing yet.

  5. He will at least disappear into obscurity, he will never again have the power he once had.
    He wasn’t tried for his obstruction of sex abuse claims over many years, but he has paid a pretty high price nonetheless.
    I think we are rid of him, which I guess will have to do for now

  6. Those who do not know or understand what happens behind the scenes in a Cathedral do not realise that Pell would not have been alone when the boys said they were molested.
    Yes, the Catholic Church has many paedophiles within its ranks and they do need to be held to account.
    Remember child sexual abusers never stop, they keep on abusing until they are correctly jailed.
    The law can very much be an ass, when the innocent are freed then justice has heppened.
    Seven, seven High Court Judges were unamious in their decision to quash to charges against Pell.
    If there were any grey areas at all, it would not have been unamious, these Judges reviewed all the evidence given to the Jury and Victorian Appealant Court, without the hype or allowing themselves to be swayed by public opinion or the Royal Commission.. The result was based on the evidence the original decision was wrong

  7. Juat think – if his religion is right in what they teach, then [if he has committed a crime] he will go to hell when he dies.

  8. When one commits a crime which is considered a sin there are things to be considered. One does not necessarily go to hell. If there is sorrow and forgiveness is sought It will not be forgiven unless there is true sorrow & the intention to never do this thing again. God then forgives the sin & that is that. However, humans being the way they are one could fall again. God will always forgive no matter how many times we fall. Do not judge others, leave the judgement to God. If everyone left judgement to God all would be well with the world.

  9. This is how bias and gossip can convict people. That is why Australians so it, to show they have power when they are powerless
    Thank God we have a High Court.

  10. …Coming from a Convent school & being a ‘border’
    I can tell you NOTHING is off limits to the so-called
    priesthood. 10 minutes, even 5, equals rape.

  11. Ummm….!!!

    I don’t thank God for despicable people who abuse positions of power & authority at any level. In this example, it is indeed God’s responsibility for the heinous, abhorrent abuse of children & people at the hands of humans in religions. The God of these religions whom have perpetuated this story for thousands of years. It’s on God! The lot of it.


  12. Totally agree Emily,
    Australians are powerless, as this case proves. A jury of citizens were convinced of this #@%$’s guilt, this is however, of little value when the High Court is comprised of god (and pope ) fearing catholics convinced they can commit atrocities with impunity , at the cost of a few ‘hail marys’ enjoy eternity in some fictional paradise.
    Cheers G”)

  13. Pell was a well known ‘feeling around’ person
    found at ‘swimming pools’ back in the 1950s.
    The church did nothing about his habits then
    so there’s no surprises today. Check the age
    factors & time lines.

  14. Yes all religions have a lot to answer for NOT
    just the Catholic church !! Child brides
    In other religions is this acceptable?
    The worlds media including the ABC
    The silence is deafening!!


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