Cardinal George Pell will be released from prison in Victoria after the country’s highest court quashed his child sexual abuse convictions.
The full bench’s ruling was handed down by Chief Justice Susan Kiefel in an almost empty High Court registry in Brisbane, due to physical-distancing measures introduced in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
The 78-year-old former adviser to the Pope was serving a six-year jail term for abusing two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in the mid-1990s.
He had been accused of committing the crimes after he found the boys swigging altar wine in the priests’ sacristy after mass in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.
A jury convicted him in 2018 — a decision that the Victorian Court of Appeal upheld in a two-to-one decision.
But his lawyers went to the High Court, arguing the appeal court failed to take proper account of evidence that cast doubt on his guilt.
Today the High Court handed down its decision, granting Cardinal Pell’s application for special leave and acquitting him.
After the verdict was handed down, Cardinal Pell said in a statement he holds “no ill will” to his accuser.
“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” Cardinal Pell said in a statement.
“This has been remedied today, with the High Court’s unanimous decision. I look forward to reading the judgment, and reasons for the decision in detail. I hold no ill will toward my accuser. I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel. There is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.”
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