Cardinal George Pell – The Appeal
HOW A JURY CONVICTED PELL
Cardinal George Pell, one of the most powerful Catholics figures in the world, known for his staunch conservatism on issues including marriage equality and abortion is now before the Courts, stripped of his freedom and pride and sentenced to a period of 6 years for five charges relating to child sexual abuse. He denies any of the allegations that were made on him and argues that his conviction should be overturned. The matter is currently the subject of an appeal to the Victorian Court of Appeal.
The whole case is described to be unusual by some. Opinions and ideas have been split into two, where one side argue that he has committed such offences and deserves the sentence that he has received and others argue that there was insufficient evidence to convict him of any wrongdoings and in fact he was wrongly convicted. Others argue that the conviction was an unsafe one.
George Pell was left facing many charges which were split into two trials. The First trial related to the offending in 1996 at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne when he was an archbishop. The second Trial related to alleged offences while he was a Priest in Ballarat, Victoria in the 1970s.
While the two trials were running, a suppression order was in place so that jurors in the trial of the second group of the alleged offences would not be prejudiced by reporting of the first trial. Although the suppression order was in place, it is alleged that it was just not enough for a fair trial because these matters have been in the media for quite some time now and broadcasted by international media outlets which were no privy to the orders by the Australian Courts.
On 11 December 2019, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on five charges; one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of indecent assault of a child under the age of 16.
THE ROLE OF THE JURY
Jurors are laypeople who are sometimes asked to understand complicated legal concepts and apply those concepts to the case at hand, without letting emotion clog their decision-making. It’s not an easy task, and can be very time consuming, especially in cases involving serious offenses.
Their ultimate role is to determine the guilt, or otherwise innocence, of the accused before trial.
The role of a jury is always to be open-minded, fair and impartial because an accused person has the right to a fair trial, so jurors must pay full attention to the trial proceedings and must not use research on the internet in attempt to find further information which will be related to matters in the trial.
GROUNDS FOR THE APPEAL
I was asked by TodayTonight to be interviewed about this matter. To watch the video, please click here
I indicated that there may be grounds for appeal in terms of a potentially an unsafe verdict.
After my interview, the media released the grounds of appeal summarised in the following categories:
- The prohibition of video evidence in the closing address; and
- Composition of the jury.
George Pell’s Barrister, Robert Richter QC who referred to the case as “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where the child is not volunteering or actively participating” is not acting in the appeal.
However, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd states “I see this as callous, brazen offending … he did have in his mind some sense of impunity,”