Cardinal George Pell plans to seek “special leave of appeal” with the High Court of Australia after his conviction was upheld last week.
Last Wednesday in Melbourne, the Victorian Court of Appeal livestreamed their ruling to uphold Cardinal Pell’s abuses conviction in a 2-1 decision.
Under Australian law, Pell’s lawyers have 28 days from the judgement to file a “special leave of appeal” with the High Court, his last avenue in the appellate process to overturn the contentious conviction.
Pell plans to keep his current legal team led by Brit Walker SC and is expected to exercise his right. Experts believe the court may 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.
When the appellant is in custody the High Court is expeditious; however, holding a special leave hearing then a full appeal if granted could take until at least 2020.
In response to the dismissal of Pell’s appeal last week, the Holy See released an official statement in response.
“While reiterating its respect for the Australian judicial system, as stated on 26 February after the first instance verdict was announced, the Holy See acknowledges the court’s decision to dismiss Cardinal Pell’s appeal. As the proceedings continue to develop, the Holy See recalls that the Cardinal has always maintained his innocence throughout the judicial process and that it is his right to appeal to the High Court. At this time, together with the Church in Australia, the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse.”