21 Aug 2019

Cardinal George Pell loses appeal against child sex abuse convictions

12:34 pm on 21 August 2019

Australia's most prominent Catholic figure, Cardinal George Pell, has lost his appeal against his conviction over sexual offences against two choir boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell Photo: AFP

By a majority of 2-1, the Victorian Court of Appeal has dismissed Pell's appeal against his child sex abuse convictions.

He will continue to serve his sentence of six years' imprisonment.

And will remain eligible to apply for parole after he has served three years and eight months of the sentence.

In March the 78-year-old was sentenced to six years in prison, after a jury found him guilty of five offences, including sexual penetration of a child.

A trial ran last year involving two complainants who were choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne more than two decades ago.

Pell was the Catholic archbishop of Melbourne at the time.

He may attempt to challenge today's Court of Appeal decision in the High Court.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Justice Chris Maxwell dismissed the appeal, while Justice Mark Weinberg upheld the appeal.

The two judges agreed that it was possible for the offences to occur, rejecting Pell's defence team's claims.

The robes "were not so heavy or so immoveable as … had been suggested," Justice Ferguson told a packed courtroom.

All three judges agreed with County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd's ruling not to admit the defence's animation which purported to show the movements of all people present at St Patrick's Cathedral in December 1996.

Justice Ferguson said it was a "distorted picture" of events at the cathedral.

Pell has been removed from the courtroom.

"We decided that there was nothing about the complainant's evidence or about the opportunity evidence which meant that the jury must have had a doubt about the truth of the complainant's account," Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said.

"In our written reasons, we have stated that it is not enough that one or more jurors might have had a doubt. Rather, the jury must have had a doubt.

"We also state that we did not experience a doubt.

"Justice Maxwell and I accepted the prosecution's submission that the complainant was a compelling witness, was clearly not a liar, was not a fantasist and was a witness of truth."