CANBERRA, Australia -- Cardinal George Pell's appeal to overturn his child sex abuse conviction is underway in front of the Australian High Court in Canberra, almost exactly a year after he was sentenced to six years in jail.
Pell, 78, is currently in maximum-security Barwon Prison, near Melbourne, and is not present in court.
Pell's lawyer Bret Walker argued Wednesday that Pell could not have committed the first offense he was convicted of, since it is impossible for an archbishop to be alone in the priest's sacristy with two choirboys after a solemn Sunday Mass for the five to six minutes when the assault is said to have occurred.
Regarding the second incident over which Pell was also convicted, Walker said there was no witness present.
"The trials that took place of the shocking allegations of the appalling misconduct took place about 22 years after the alleged offending," Walker said in his opening remarks in front of a full bench of seven justices of the High Court on Wednesday morning.
"The evidence of the complainant was the only evidence to the effect that the offending had occurred," Walker said.
Pro- and anti-Pell groups gathered outside the court, and clashed briefly after one man holding a banner of a picture of a huge fire with the words "Burn in hell Pell" was stopped by Pell's supporters from speaking to reporters.
His supporters held Australian flags and banners that read "Wrongful conviction is scarier than COVID-19" and "judiciary power, be fair."
The High Court hearing being held over Wednesday and Thursday marks the last appeal bid by Pell, who continues to maintain his innocence.
Pell never took the stand during his trial.