Australia’s High Court granted Cardinal George Pell’s request for a final appeal, with a hearing to take place sometime early next year.

While a date is yet to be set, an appeal hearing cannot take place until after the court returns from summer recess in February. Most likely the full bench of seven judges holding the hearing in early 2020 – the next earliest available is in April – after his legal team lodges a formal appeal.

Pell’s legal team then met with the Cardinal at the Melbourne Assessment Prison to inform of the decision. Robert Richter, a Queen’s Counsel who represented Pell at trial, said: “I hope the appeal comes on quickly.”

Experts believe Pell has a high chance of winning his appeal, as Justices Michelle Gordon and James Edelman did not hold a verbal hearing for additional information but granted his request based on a review of written material only.

Pell’s legal team led by one of Australia’s top lawyers, Brit Walker SC, argued the court shifted the burden of proof onto them to prove Pell did not commit the offenses, rather than the prosecution having to prove he did. They also argued the court made an error in finding the jury’s guilty verdict was reasonable, as there was a demonstration of “reasonable doubt” he committed the offenses.

The appeal is his last avenue in the appellate process to overturn the now 78-year-olds contentious conviction of five counts of sex abuse offenses.

Since February 27th, Pell has been held in solitary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison, allowed only one hour per day outside his cell, sentenced to a minimum of 3 years and 8 months of a total 6 year sentence. Unable to celebrate Mass, he was given a job weeding the prison’s courtyard.

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