Disgraced Cardinal George Pell will learn whether his final bid for freedom has been successful after The High Court of Australia announced it would hand down its decision in Brisbane next week.
The Australian High Court is set to deliver its final decision at 10 am on Tuesday, April 7.
78-year-old Pell is currently one year into a six-year jail sentence after a jury found him guilty in 2018 of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in 1996 at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne.
He was Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne at the time of the abuse.
Pell failed in a Victorian Court of Appeal bid in August last year, with two out of three judges finding that there was sufficient evidence for the jury to find him guilty.
The former Vatican Treasurer was convicted on the allegations of one of the choirboys, now in his 30s, who came forward in 2014 after the death of the other boy.
Pell was convicted on one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16, as well as four counts of committing an indecent act with a child after a Sunday mass in December 1996.
However, the former advisor to the Pope still maintains that he is innocent. Now, The High Court’s full-bench of seven judges is Pell’s last hope for appeal while he is being held in Barwon Prison near Geelong.
If successful, Pell will be freed from prison immediately and will have his conviction expunged.
However, The High Court can also choose to send Pell’s case back to the Victorian Court of Appeal or dismiss the appeal.
Pell’s counsel, led by appeals specialist Bret Walker SC argued at a hearing in Canberra last month that the jury had made a mistake, meaning his convictions should be removed.
Walker told the High Court there was a “sheer unlikelihood” that Pell had committed the abuse during a “hive of activity” after the Solemn Mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
However, Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions, Kerri Judd QC, said to the judges that the evidence presented from complainants was firm enough for the original jury to convict Pell beyond a reasonable doubt.
Judd also noted that specific aspects of one complainant’s evidence, including that he accurately described the priest’s sacristy where Pell had been robing instead of his usual Archbishop’s sacristy, was strong enough for Pell to be convicted.
“If he was going to make this up, if he was fantasising, the place to pick was the Archbishop’s sacristy, not a place that Pell would not normally be in,” Ms Judd said.
The ABC also reported on Thursday that two men have alleged that they were also sexually abused by George Pell when they were boys in the 70s.
A 53-year-old man whose surname was withheld, known as Bernie, told the ABC that Pell sexually abused him while in a shower.
Bernie grew up in a Ballarat orphanage and according to reports, looked to Pell as a father figure while Pell was a priest in Ballarat.
Bernie also told the ABC he was convinced for years that he wouldn’t be believed if he reported the abuse.
“I would hear, ‘Pell’s become Bishop’,” he said.
“‘Pell’s become Archbishop. Pell’s become a Cardinal.’ Who’s gonna believe a little boy from a home against that conglomerate? You know against that bloody goliath?”