CARDINAL George Pell, who is currently serving a six-year sentence for the sexual abuse of two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral, Melbourne, when he was RC Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s (News, 15 March), is now awaiting the decision of an appeal hearing held last week. He has strenuously denied the charges.
Over two days, three leading judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Anne Ferguson, heard evidence from both Cardinal Pell’s defence team and the prosecution. Given the high level of public interest, the hearing was livestreamed from the Supreme Court of Victoria.
Cardinal Pell’s lawyer, Bret Walker SC, told the Court of Appeal that the conviction was “unreasonable”, and that the jury should not have found him guilty, even if they believed the testimony of the surviving victim.
Mr Walker gave 13 reasons why the conviction should be overturned, including evidence that the Cardinal could not have been in the sacristy at the time that the first offence was alleged to have occurred there. He also argued that the mass vestments that the Archbishop was wearing at the time could not have been pulled aside to allow the “atrocious acts” of which he was accused.
The prosecution, however, argued that the victim was a compelling witness, whose evidence was accepted by the County Court jury that found the Cardinal guilty last December. “He [the victim] was clearly not a liar,” Chris Boyce SC said.
The judges’ decision on the appeal is not expected for several weeks.
Court halts disciplinary tribunal. THE Supreme Court of Tasmania has ordered the diocese of Tasmania to stop disciplinary proceedings against the former diocesan bishop, the Rt Revd Philip Newell, on the grounds of his ill health.
In 2017, the diocese instituted proceedings against Bishop Newell in the diocesan tribunal, after criticism by the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, because he had failed to take action against a priest who was the subject of complaints of abuse by three separate boys (News, 17 February 2017). Two years later, he had made the priest an archdeacon on the basis that he “amend his life”. The priest was subsequently sentenced twice for child sexual abuse and deposed from Holy Orders.
Before the tribunal was due to begin, Bishop Newell applied to the Supreme Court for a stay of proceedings.
Bishop Newell, who is 89, was Bishop of Tasmania from 1982 to 1999.