7 Apr 2020

George Pell: Court quashes cardinal's sexual abuse convictions

12:29 pm on 7 April 2020

Cardinal George Pell will be freed from jail after Australia's highest court overturned his convictions for child sexual abuse.

George Pell is escorted in handcuffs from the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on 21 August 2019.

George Pell is escorted in handcuffs from the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on 21 August 2019. Photo: AFP

The ex-Vatican treasurer, 78, had been the most senior Catholic figure ever jailed for such crimes.

In 2018, a jury found he abused two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.

But the High Court of Australia quashed that verdict on Tuesday, meaning the cardinal will immediately stop serving a six-year jail sentence.

The Australian cleric has maintained his innocence since he was charged by police in June 2017.

A full bench of seven judges ruled unanimously in Cardinal Pell's favour, finding that the jury had not properly considered all the evidence presented at trial.

"The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt," said the court in its judgement.

It was the cardinal's final legal challenge, after his conviction was upheld by a lower court last year.

Pell was among the highest-ranking figures in the Church's global hierarchy.

Made a cardinal in 2003, he was summoned to Rome in 2014 to help clean up the Vatican's finances.

He forged a reputation as a disciplined Church leader who held strict conservative views against same-sex marriage, abortion and contraception.

- BBC

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