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Australian court rejects Cardinal Pell's bid to overturn conviction

Subel Bhandari, DPA on

Published in Religious News

MELBOURNE, Australia -- An Australian court has rejected jailed Cardinal George Pell's appeal against his conviction and he will continue to serve a six-year sentence for child sex abuse.

Three judges at the Court of Appeal in Melbourne handed down a majority two-to-one decision on Wednesday rejecting Pell's appeal and upholding the conviction.

The former Vatican treasurer and one-time close adviser to Pope Francis was convicted in December for sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the mid-1990s.

The 78-year-old maintains his innocence.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell granted leave to appeal Pell's application but rejected the appeal, while Justice Mark Weinberg dissented.

The full judgment is more than 300 pages long and will be made public later Wednesday, said Ferguson.

 

Ferguson said the case surrounding Pell, who has been publicly vilified in some sections of the community, had ignited vigorous and emotional criticism of the cardinal, while there was also strong support for him in certain sections.

"Indeed, it is fair to say that his case has divided the community," she said.

During the appeal hearing in June, Pell's lawyers had argued that the jury verdict was "unsafe and unsatisfactory," as the jury had accepted the surviving victim's evidence in the face of 20 prosecution witnesses who gave exculpatory evidence.

Pell's lawyers also presented two other arguments: That Pell was not arraigned in the presence of the jury panel, and that his defense team should have been allowed to show a video animation to the jury. Both could lead to a retrial.

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