Australian court dismisses cardinal's sex abuse convictions

Australian court dismisses cardinal's sex abuse convictions”

Australia's highest court has overturned former Vatican treasurer George Pell's conviction for sexually assaulting two teenaged choirboys in the 1990s, allowing the 78-year-old cardinal to walk free from jail.

The High Court found that, "on the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant's evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents".

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) - Australia's highest court has dismissed the convictions of the most senior Catholic found guilty of child sex abuse.

Pell, who is the most senior Vatican figure to ever be found guilty of the sexual abuse of a minor was sentenced to six years behind bars with a possibility of parole and has served 405 days out of his sentence before the groundbreaking verdict was overtuned unanimously on Tuesday.

Pell who has always maintained his innocence said Monday that he had suffered a "serious injustice".

In August, Victoria's court of appeal upheld his conviction by a majority of two to one.

Rather, they argued that even if the man's evidence was compelling or believable, it was not enough to eliminate the reasonable doubt raised by other witnesses that it wouldn't have been physically possible for the assaults to occur given the robes Pell was wearing and the time available after Sunday Mass at St Patrick's Cathedral.

Director of Public Prosecutions Kerri Judd told the High Court last month that the surviving choirboy's detailed knowledge of the layout of the priests' sacristy supported his accusation that the boys were molested there. Following that decision, Pell's final chance was the High Court, which handed down its decision this morning after hearing arguments earlier this year.

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"However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church".

"The point was whether I had committed these terrible crimes, and I did not".

He was sentenced to six years in prison in March 2019, but Monday's ruling will free him.

Coleridge said that anyone with allegations should go to the police.

President of the Blue Knot Foundation, an Australian victim support group, Dr. Cathy Kezelman said in a Monday statement that for a victim to "have to prove that you were abused and betrayed can be more than overwhelming given the profound impacts of trauma".

Pell did not testify at either trial or at the subsequent appeals.

"The child sexual abuse pandemic within the Catholic church has threatened the safety of millions of children, the adults they become and the very moral fiber of what it means to be human", Kezelman said.

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