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Cardinal George Pell depicted in a courtroom sketch on Wednesday Cardinal George Pell depicted in a courtroom sketch on Wednesday 

Australia: Cardinal Pell begins appeal against conviction

A court in the Australian city of Melbourne begins hearing Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his conviction. A jury found the Cardinal guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in the mid-1990s, while he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

By Vatican News

In March, 77-year-old Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison.

In contrast to the criminal proceedings against Cardinal Pell, the appeal proceedings are being broadcast live on the website of Victoria’s Court of Appeal.

The camera is directed at the three judges, while Cardinal Pell, journalists and spectators are in the courtroom off-camera.

Basis for appeal

Cardinal Pell's lawyer, Bret Walker, is contesting the guilty verdict on three grounds.

He argued that charges against the former Vatican treasurer were “unreasonable”, because he was only found guilty on the basis of statements made by just one of the victims; while the second victim, who died in 2014, had said he had not been abused.

Mr. Walker also argued that witnesses at the original trial had testified that it was impossible for Cardinal Pell to have committed the crimes alleged against him.

Cardinal Pell himself had not testified in the criminal proceedings on the advice of his defense attorney.

The lawyer said that, in the criminal proceedings, the exact date of the crimes were supposed to have occurred could not be precisely determined.

Decision timetable

The 2-day trial is due to end on Thursday. Experts say the judges may need weeks or months to reach a decision.

If the court rules in Cardinal Pell’s favor on the first grounds for appeal, his conviction would be overturned.

Should the court accept the second or third grounds of appeal, which allege procedural errors, a new trial would have to be scheduled.

05 June 2019, 16:43