Australia to rule on cardinal’s sex offences appeal next week

Australia’s top court says it will hand down its judgment next week on the appeal made by Cardinal George Pell, who is convicted of child sex abuse.

On Thursday, the country’s High Court said in a statement that it would rule on the ex-Vatican treasurer’s appeal “at 10 a.m. local time (0000 GMT) on Tuesday, April 7.”

Back in December 2018, a jury in Melbourne found the cardinal guilty on five charges related to sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the rooms of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in the city in 1996, when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.

In March last year, Pell, once the third-most senior Catholic Church official in the world, was sentenced to six years in prison and lost an appeal against his conviction in a lower court in August the same year.

Legal experts say that judges can deny Pell’s appeal or overturn his conviction, in which case he will walk free. There is also a slim possibility that the case could be sent back to a lower court, they say.

Pell’s case was initially under a controversial gag order. But it was lifted in February last year when a second trial against the cardinal was dropped.

The cardinal, who is now 78 and once helped elect popes, maintains his innocence.

The Vatican has already said that it would avoid opening an investigation into Pell’s conduct until after all legal avenues were exhausted.

Pell has lost his positions as a close advisor to Pope Francis and the Vatican’s treasurer due to the scandal, but he remains in the priesthood.

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