The High Court of Australia has granted jailed Cardinal George Pell’s legal team’s request to have his conviction on child sexual abuse offences referred to a Full Bench of the High Court to determine whether, based on the evidence, an appeal can be heard.
The appeal application, lodged in September, claimed: “There did not remain a reasonable doubt as to the existence of any opportunity for the offending to have occurred.”
Pell’s lawyers will now be able to argue for a formal appeal.
Pell was found guilty in February by a jury of the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and the sexual assault of another in 1996.
The complainant spoke to police in 2015, while the other victim has died. Pell has already appealed once, in Victoria — the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld the jury verdict in August 2019 by a ruling of 2-1.
The case against Pell relied on the testimony of the former choirboy; the cornerstone of Pell’s legal teams appeal is the question of whether the evidence of a complainant can eliminate all reasonable doubt raised by other witnesses.
This is the 78-year-old’s last opportunity to have the conviction overturned.
Currently serving a six-year jail sentence, Pell has been granted special leave to challenge the conviction and his legal team informed him of the High Court’s decision.
Under the current terms of this sentence, Pell must serve a minimum of three years and eight months in jail, of which he has already served eight months.
A date for the appeal hearing has yet to be set and will likely be in early 2020.