What the appeal verdict means

What the appeal verdict means

Cardinal George Pell in front of the court in Melbourne (Archive) © Daniel Pockett/AAP

The hope for an acquittal has been dashed for Cardinal George Pell for the time being. Victoria's Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the former Vatican finance chief. Some questions and answers about the case.

What reasons Pell had put forward against the lower court's verdict?

Pell's lawyers had doubted the credibility of the only prosecution witness. The conviction, which was based solely on the testimony of a person involved, was "not possible beyond a reasonable doubt," they argued. The sentence is therefore "inappropriate".

In two other points, the lawyers cited formal and procedural errors. So Pell had not been asked in the presence of the jury whether he was pleading guilty. In addition, the defense had not been allowed to show a video to prove that the act of sexual abuse charged was factually impossible.

How did the court reject these arguments?

The three judges rejected the most important appeal by a two-to-one vote. Presiding Judge Anne Ferguson and her colleague Chris Maxwell saw no valid reason to doubt the alleged abuse victim's testimony. The guilty verdict against Pell was therefore – in light of the evidence – not illegal. The judges unanimously rejected the other grounds of appeal for alleged procedural errors.

What is the minority vote of Judge Mark Weinberg?

Judge Weinberg argued in favor of Pell's acquittal in his minority vote. He said he was not convinced by the testimony of the prosecution witness and could not rule out the possibility that the former choirboy had "made up" parts of his remarks.

Does Pell still have further appeal possibilities?

The confirmation of the judgment is subject to a final appeal to Australia's Supreme Court within four weeks.

Must Vatican remove Pell from priesthood after ruling?

An Entlang from the priesthood as punishment can be only consequence of own church procedure. If that investigation concludes that Pell is guilty of abuse or a cover-up, the pope can defrock him – or just defrock him as a cardinal. Removal from the clergy is the highest penalty the church can impose on clerics. The Vatican last imposed such a sentence on former Washington Archbishop Theodore McCarrick in February, but he had not been convicted by any secular court.

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Christina Cherry
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