The verdict will be handed down in the appeal of Cardinal George Pell’s abuse conviction during a livestream on August 21st at 9:30a.m.
After considering “last-minute questions” in Cardinal Pell’s abuse case, the Victoria Court of Appeal has set the date for August 21st to deliver their judgement. President Maxwell, Chief Justice Ferguson and Justice Weinberg could overturn the convictions, uphold them, or call for a retrial.
The decision will be webcast starting at 9:30 a.m. on the appeal’s court website here. Whichever side that loses the appeal is expected to appeal to Australia’s Supreme Court thereafter.
Last December, Cardinal Pell was convicted by an Australian civil court on five counts of child sex abuse. However, because of a sweeping gag order imposed by the judge, the results of that trial were not widely reported until the media restriction was lifted at a later time.
Throughout the trial Pell maintained his innocence: his legal team immediately appealed the conviction, and experts believe he has a “high chance” of winning. A “fast-tracked” 3-day hearing for his appeal was held from June 4th – 6th.
“An appeal has already been lodged to be pursued following sentencing on three grounds: the prohibition of video evidence in the closing address, jury composition, and unreasonableness.”
Defense lawyer Bret Walker focused the argument on the first alleged assault, describing the circumstances in which Pell is alleged to have assaulted two choir boys simultaneously for over 5 minutes in a busy sacristy as “matters of physical improbability to the point of impossibility” and “literally and logically impossible according to the complainant’s account.”
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. Archbishop Peter Comensoli of the Diocese of Melbourne visited Pell in prison and called him “quite spiritually strong.”
“I think it takes its toll. He’s on 23 hour solitary confinement, really. He only has an hour outside of his actual cell per day. He has a sense of waiting, as with anything there would be a psychological agitation about waiting for what’s going to be the outcome of the appeal, but I found him strong spiritually and calm and very conversive.”
Given the likelihood of his appeal’s success, Pell and his supporters are making new living arrangements for a “safe hideaway” if the appeal is successful.
The potential for backlash and threats on Pell’s life are so high that he would have to live in a “secure compound.” Potential locations include an undisclosed location in southeastern Australia, Rome, or a seminary in Sydney or Victoria.