Cardinal Pell gets last chance against sex abuse charges

Sydney: The Australian High Court on Wednesday allowed Cardinal George Pell to appeal his six-year prison sentence for child sexual abuse.

“The application for special leave was referred to a full bench (of judges), and the case will be heard at a date to be fixed,” a spokesperson of the High Court was quoted as saying to EFE news.

“The timetable has the case ready for listing after 4 March 2020,” he added.

This is the last chance for the former Vatican treasurer to reverse the prison sentence that captured global attention as Pell, 78, became the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to be convicted of such a crime.

Pell was sentenced in March to jail for five counts of child sexual abuse against two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne between 1996-97. He maintains his innocence.

On August 21, Melbourne Supreme Court dismissed Pell’s first appeal against the sentence. It rejected the arguments filed by the cardinal’s lawyers, who questioned a victim’s testimony and the possibility that the jury could have issued a verdict beyond reasonable doubt.

The abuse accusations against Pell came to light in 2015 when one of the victims reported to Victoria Police that the cardinal had sexually abused him on two occasions shortly after Pell was appointed Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

The cardinal was born in Ballarat, Victoria, and was also Archbishop of Sydney before being appointed prefect of the finance secretariat of the Holy See in 2014, the highest rank after the Pope and the Secretary of State of the Vatican.

Pell, imprisoned since February, is set to remain in prison at least until 2022, when he will be able to apply for parole, and will remain on the register of child abusers unless his appeal is successful.