Child sex offences “impossible”, George Pell’s lawyer tells appellate court
The child sex offences for which George Pell was convicted are “impossible”, his lawyer told the Victorian Court of Appeal today as the Cardinal seeks to have the jury’s guilty verdict overturned.
Last year, Cardinal Pell was convicted of the sexual abuse of two choirboys and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment after a jury found him guilty in the County Court.
In written submissions appealing against the conviction, his legal team has listed 13 reasons why the offences could not have occurred, including issues with the Cardinal’s location at the time and the dates of the offences.
Speaking at a hearing on Wednesday, Bret Walker SC argued before the Court of Appeal that Cardinal Pell’s clerical robe could not have been pulled aside to commit the “atrocious acts” for which he was convicted.
Cardinal Pell attended the appeal in person and took notes throughout the proceedings, which are being heard by three justices of appeal and being livestreamed on the Court’s website.
Mr Walker told the Court that “questions of probability” are central to the appeal, arguing that even if the jury believed the victim’s story it could not rule out reasonable doubt.
“On this evidence, whatever they thought of the complainant … at least the indications of impossibility were so strong that they couldn’t have excluded a doubt,” Mr Walker said.
He referred to the victim’s testimony that the abuse took place when Cardinal Pell was dressed in “full robes” after mass as significantly affecting the probability that the abuse occurred.
“Incidental to that proposition are matters of physical improbability to the point of impossibility of the simple pulling aside of those robes in order to commit the alleged atrocious acts,” Mr Walker said.
Mr Walker also argued that “credible evidence” presented by the defence has not been successfully challenged by the Crown, and would place the then-archbishop in a location that made the offending “impossible, or simply not a realistic possibility.”
The prosecution will make its case to uphold the verdict on Thursday.
Cardinal Pell has indicated he will not seek a lesser sentence if his appeal fails.
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