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Australian High Court quashes conviction of Cardinal Pell on sex offences

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Australian High Court quashes conviction of Cardinal Pell on sex offences

By Sonali Paul

 

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FILE PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell attends a news conference at the Vatican, June 29, 2017. REUTERS/Remo Casilli/File Photo

 

(Reuters) - Australia's highest court on Tuesday overturned former Vatican treasurer George Pell's conviction for sexually assaulting two teenaged choirboys in the 1990s, allowing the 78-year-old cardinal to walk free from jail.

 

In a unanimous ruling, the High Court found that the jury in Cardinal Pell's trial "ought to have entertained a doubt" as to his guilt.

 

The court's seven judges ordered the convictions be quashed and verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.

 

Pell, who has maintained his innocence throughout the lengthy court process, cannot be retried on the charges, ending the most high profile case globally of alleged sexual abuse by priests to have rocked the Roman Catholic Church.

 

Pell, a polarising figure in Australia for his conservative views, was the highest ranked Catholic official worldwide to have been jailed for child sex offences when he began serving a six-year sentence a year ago.

 

The cardinal was charged in 2017 with one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four charges of an indecent act with a child under 16, which the plaintiff said took place when Pell was archbishop of the city of Melbourne.

 

The judgment was delivered during Holy Week, the period leading up to Easter which is the most important day in the Christian calendar, following two days of hearings a month ago.

 

The decision was delivered to a largely empty courtroom in Brisbane because of national restrictions on travel and public gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.

 

Pell's first trial ended in a hung jury, before the jury in a second trial unanimously found him guilty in 2018. Pell did not take the stand at either trial.

 

Under Australia's court system, his first appeal went to a court in Victoria, where a majority of two judges against one upheld his conviction.

 

Pell's lawyers then took the case to the High Court, arguing that the Victoria appeals court had erred in shifting the onus of proof to the defense and in finding that it was open to the jury to find Pell guilty beyond reasonable doubt.

 

The High Court said the lower court of appeal had "failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have bene a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt."

 

The cardinal was appointed by Pope Francis in 2014 to overhaul the Vatican's vast finances but lost his role last year after being jailed. Pope Francis has said he would only comment on the case after Pell exhausted all avenues of appeal.

 

He has remained a cardinal despite pressure on the church from victims of sexual abuse and their advocates to dismiss him.

 

(Reporting by Sonali Paul; editing by Jane Wardell)

 

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-- © Copyright Reuters 2020-04-07
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The power of a higher being, or not?

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16 minutes ago, webfact said:

the High Court found that the jury in Pell's trial "ought to have entertained a doubt"

Who said they didn't?,,,,,,,,,,,,Amazing point to be acquitted on.

 

They could  obviously find nothing else wrong with the prosecution. I guess its back to the Vatican with all his other fellows for him.....

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Posted (edited)
2 minutes ago, Boomer6969 said:

Is this our version of a 500 Bahts fine with a Wai?

Those are usually run of the mill posts, but really funny in this context!

Edited by sungod
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Well I wonder how many will turn up for his church service.

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Two more complainants went public last week, from the same school . 

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4 hours ago, worgeordie said:

Even if there was none,

regards Worgeordie

If the jury in the first trial failed to reach a verdict then presumably there must have been doubts.

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