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Cardinal Pell has child abuse conviction overturned

April 7, 2020

Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell was serving a six-year sentence for child sex abuse. Now, he has left prison after a successful appeal.

George Pell
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Crosling

The Australian High Court on Tuesday overturned a child sex abuse conviction against Cardinal George Pell.

Judges ordered all five counts against Pell "be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place."

His successful appeal means the former Vatican finance minister was able to leave jail immediately.

"I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough," he said in a statement issued before his imminent release.

Pell has always maintained his innocence and added that his trial "was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church."

He was the most senior Catholic to have been found guilty of child sex offences.

Read more: Why has the Catholic Church taken so long to address child sexual abuse?

The legal history of the case

The former archbishop of Melbourne had received a six-year prison term for sexually assaulting two choirboys following a unanimous jury decision in December 2018.

The Victoria Court of Appeal rejected his subsequent request to overturn his convictions after judges ruled against Pell in a 2-1 majority decision. 

During the trial, only one of the victims testified against Pell, as the other had died of a heroin overdose in 2014. The victim said he went to the police to report abuse after attending his friend’s funeral.  

While Pell did not testify at either trial or during subsequent appeal, juries saw his video recorded statement during police interviews in Rome in October 2016.  

"The allegations involve vile and disgusting conduct contrary to everything I hold dear and contrary to the explicit teachings of the church which I have spent my life representing," Pell read from a statement at the time. 

adi/rt (dpa, AP, Reuters)

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