Cardinal George Pell Can Win Appeal Against Convictions Of Sexually Assaulting Choirboys

A law expert thinks Pell stands a good chance of having the appeal granted.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne County Court on February 27, 2019
Michael Dodge / Getty Images

A law expert thinks Pell stands a good chance of having the appeal granted.

Cardinal George Pell may stand a good chance of succeeding at being granted an appeal against his convictions of sexual assault of two choirboys, legal experts have claimed.

Pell’s defense attorney Robert Richter said during the sentencing hearing on Wednesday that the appeal would be based on three key factors — unreasonableness, the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, and composition of the jury. While law experts said the last two didn’t appear convincing, Pell has a good chance at appealing on the basis of unreasonableness, according to The Guardian. This key argument states that the jury delivered a verdict that wasn’t backed by the evidence available.

As previously reported by The Inquisitr, the cardinal, who held the title of the Vatican’s third most powerful official, was found guilty of sexually abusing two choir boys in the late 1990s. Pell, who is the highest Catholic Church official to ever go stand trial on sex abuse charges, left Rome in June 2017 to stand trial in Melbourne. And after the first trial was declared a mistrial following a hung jury, the subsequent retrial concluded after months of proceedings. But now, the 77-year-old is aiming at a successful appeal process.

“Prosecutors would be completely prepared for an appeal based on this,” said University of Melbourne law school’s criminal appeals and procedure expert, Professor Jeremy Gans.

“And it’s not a rare grounds to succeed on. This is the defense’s best shot and carries a bonus for them in that if they win there can almost certainly be no new trial. Because once a court decides a guilty verdict is unreasonable it means they don’t think guilty should be the verdict in the next trial either. They would almost certainly acquit.”

Pell’s barrister made headlines this week when he described the priest’s sexual abuse of a 13-year-old choirboy as “vanilla sexual penetration.” The cardinal was accused of orally raping the boy, as well as molesting him and another 13-year-old after a Sunday mass in 1996. In trying to convey that there were no aggravating features to his offending, Richter claimed it was no more than a case “where a child is not volunteering or actively participating.”

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Chief Judge Peter Kidd made it clear that his remarks had been inappropriate, and on Thursday, Richter was forced to apologize for his choice of words following what he said was a “sleepless night reflecting,” according to The Guardian.