Top court to rule on Pell's appeal

World | AGENCIES 3 Apr 2020

Australia's High Court said yesterday it will rule on Cardinal George Pell's appeal against child sex abuse convictions on April 7, giving the senior cleric another chance to clear his name.

The 78-year-old former Vatican treasurer is trying to overturn a six-year sentence for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral while he was the city's archbishop in the late 1990s.

Pell is the highest-ranking Catholic Church official ever convicted of child sex crimes. He maintains his innocence.

Legal experts have struggled to predict the progression of the high-profile case, as it threw up one surprise after another.

Judges could yet deny Pell's appeal, order a retrial or quash his conviction altogether.

The case relied largely on the testimony of Pell's surviving victim. The second choirboy - who is not known to have ever spoken of the abuse - died of a drug overdose in 2014.

Pell was quietly removed from top Church bodies while mention of his trial was under a wide-ranging court gag order, but he remains in the priesthood.

The High Court had heard Pell's appeal on March 11 and 12 before the court's hearings were canceled due to the coronavirus.

The court's decision could be the last chance for Pope Francis' former finance minister to clear his name.

A Victoria state County Court jury convicted Pell on all charges in December 2018. The Victoria Court of Appeal in August last year rejected his appeal against the jury verdicts.

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