Cardinal George Pell’s legal team submitted a petition to seek leave of appeal in Australia’s High Court to overturn his conviction.
Late last month in Melbourne, the Victorian Court of Appeal livestreamed their ruling to uphold Cardinal Pell’s abuse conviction in a 2-1 decision.
Under Australian law, Pell’s lawyers had 28 days from the judgement to file a “special leave of appeal” with the High Court of Australia, his last avenue in the appellate process to overturn the contentious conviction.
One day before the deadline on September 17th, his legal team submitted a 12 page application to seek leave of appeal with the High Court on the grounds that the testimony of a single witness was not “beyond reasonable doubt.”
“The majority erred by finding that their belief in the complainant required the applicant to establish that the offending was impossible. The majority erred in their conclusion that the verdicts were not unreasonable.”
The High Court is not obligated to accept his appeal, and must be satisfied an error in the law occurred to do so. A single justice, or a panel of three, will consider the written pleadings and determine if a brief verbal hearing is necessary before making a decision.
Pell plans to keep his current legal team led by one of Australia’s top lawyers, Brit Walker SC. Experts believe the court will grant a hearing given the dissent by Justice Mark Weinberg, the most experienced judge on the appeal.
Weinberg’s dissenting opinion held that the main witness was “inclined to embellish” and that his evidence “displayed inadequacies.” Weinberg also held that Pell’s clerical robes were not “capable of being maneuvered, pulled to one side or pulled apart.”
His dissent could be considered “differences of opinion within the one court” according to the “criteria for granting special leave to appeal” under Section 35A of the 1903 Judiciary Act of Australia.
Since February 27th, Pell has been held in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison, allowed only one hour per day outside his cell, sentenced to a minimum of 3 years and 8 months of a total 6 year sentence.
When the appellant is in custody the High Court is usually expeditious. However, holding a special leave hearing – then a full appeal if granted – would likely take until 2020.