Cardinal George Pell, once Australia's most prominent Catholic figure and the former Archbishop of Melbourne, has had his appeal on his child sexual assault convictions dismissed by the Victorian Court of Appeal. The decision means that Pell will remain in prison until October 2022.
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Pell and his legal team argued the convictions should be overturned on three grounds, including that the verdicts are "unreasonable". Bret Walker SC, Pell's lawyer, told the court that "questions of probability" were at the heart of the appeal."
On the first grounds of appeal, in which Pell's defence claimed the jury acted unreasonably in coming to a guilty verdict, the judges dismissed the appeal by a margin of two-to-one. On the second and third grounds the judges dismissed the appeal unanimously. “It is not enough that the jury might have had a doubt, but they must have had a doubt,” Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said. “This was a compelling witness, clearly not a liar, not a fantasist and was a witness of truth.”
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Pell has been sentenced to spend at least three years and eight months behind bars for the sexual abuse. The sentence carries a maximum term of six years.
Last December, a jury found him guilty of abusing the boys at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral after a Sunday mass in 1996, and abusing one of the boys a second-time several months later. The former senior Vatican official pleaded not guilty at trial, but was convicted of one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child.