After a conviction for “historical abuse charges,” Cardinal George Pell’s legal team has made opening arguments setting out the case for his appeal.
Last December, Cardinal Pell was convicted by an Australian civil court on five counts of child sex abuse. However, because of a sweeping gag order imposed by the judge, the results of that trial were not widely reported until the media restriction was lifted on the 26th.
Throughout the trial Pell maintained his innocence: his legal team immediately appealed the conviction, and experts believe he has a “high chance” of winning. A “fast-tracked” 3-day hearing for his appeal was set for June 4th – 6th.
“An appeal has already been lodged to be pursued following sentencing on three grounds: the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, jury composition, and unreasonableness.”
On Tuesday, his legal team presented their opening arguments at the Supreme Court of Victoria, judges hearing the defense as they made the case for his appeal. Bret William Walker, SC told the three judge panel Pell was seeking appeal on the grounds his jury conviction was “unsafe.”
Walker focused his argument on the first alleged assault, describing the circumstances in which Pell is alleged to have assaulted two choir boys simultaneously for over 5 minutes in a busy sacristy as “matters of physical improbability to the point of impossibility” and “literally and logically impossible according to the complainant’s account.”
“Nobody apart from the alleged victims and the alleged perpetrator were present in the room called the priest’s sacristy with which the judges are now familiar.”
Walker also called into question the prosecution’s difficulty in establishing a date in which the alleged assault took place.
“If you have to be, for the offending, in a particular place in a particular time, then credible evidence, never challenged, places the archbishop in a position carrying out an activity at a time rendering the offending, according to the complainant’s account impossible, or put more softly simply not a realistic possibility.”
Walker also argued many points that show weakness in the prosecutions case, the failure of investigators to interview specific witnesses, and the jury being unable to test the credibility of the alleged victim in court.
Cardinal Pell will turn 78 on Saturday. The appeal hearing is set to take place for 2 more days: a verdict could come at any point during the process or be held until a later date.