Today the High Court of Australia handed down its decision in the case of Cardinal George Pell.

This was Pell’s final opportunity to appeal his convictions for historical child sexual offences.

After deliberating for less than a month, and following two days of legal arguments in March, the High Court unanimously allowed Pell’s appeal and quashed his convictions.

As Cardinal Pell has been acquitted of all charges, he will be released from Barwon prison today.


What did the High Court say? 

The Court found that the jury ‘ought to have entertained a doubt’ as to whether Pell was guilty of the offences.

In considering the majority decision of the Victorian Court of Appeal, the High Court said they erred, by failing to consider the possibility that the offending did not take place.

The High Court made reference to the following unchallenged evidence, which suggested that Pell would not have had the opportunity to commit the offences:

  • Pell’s practice of greeting congregants on or near the Cathedral steps after Sunday Mass
  • The established practice that required Pell to always be accompanied when robed in the Cathedral
  • The continuous traffic in and out of the priests’ sacristy for 10-15 minutes after the conclusion of the procession that ended Sunday Mass

The Court held that even if the jury found the evidence of the complainant to be credible and reliable, the evidence of the other witnesses required them to have considered the possibility that Pell was not guilty of the offences.


Can the Prosecution appeal the High Court’s decision?

No. The High Court is the highest Court in Australia and its decisions are final. The Prosecution cannot appeal the decision, even if they disagree with it.