Cardinal Pell loses appeal against child sex convictions

World | AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE 22 Aug 2019

Disgraced Cardinal George Pell lost his appeal against child sex abuse convictions yesterday, prompting relief from victims who fought to bring one of the Catholic Church's most powerful men to justice.

A former Vatican treasurer, Pell had been trying to overturn the verdicts and six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

The high-profile case pitted the 78-year-old - who previously helped elect Popes and was a trusted papal aide involved in the church's response to child sex abuse claims - against a former choirboy now in his thirties.

Pell bowed his head as Chief Justice Anne Ferguson dismissed his arguments and described his victim as "very compelling" and someone who "was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth."

The ruling prompted cheers to ripple into the courtroom from a large crowd gathered outside, and produced emotional statements from victims, their families and advocacy groups.

The now-adult victim said the death of his friend, the second choirboy, from a drug overdose had prompted him to break his decades-long silence.

Following the ruling, Pell - who will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months - maintained his innocence and said he was now considering a second and final appeal.

The Vatican noted that Pell has the right to appeal but made no mention of its own investigation into the matter launched earlier this year.

Pell's lawyers now have 28 days to consider further legal steps.

They had raised 13 objections to his convictions, casting doubt on everything from the physical possibility of Pell removing his robes to carry out the act, to the credibility of the main witness.

The case was unusual in that it relied heavily on the closed-door testimony of the sole surviving victim.

The three judges unanimously dismissed two so-called "fallback" arguments for Pell related to alleged procedural errors during his trial.

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