Cardinal George Pell walks free as Australian High Court dismisses sex abuse charges against him

  • The Cardinal maintained his innocence throughout the court procedure

  • Vatican never issued an internal investigation

The Australian High Court has cleared all convictions of sexual abuse against Cardinal George Pell on Tuesday, April 7. The senior Catholic from Australia was convicted for abusing two choirboys in the 1990s.

The new conviction overturns the earlier one from 2018 by the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Victoria, Justice Anne Ferguson, president of the Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell, and Justice Mark Weinberg. It had taken the Supreme Court nearly nine weeks to come to the decision while it took the High Court a little under four weeks to come to the decision of letting Cardinal Pell go.

In the unanimous ruling on Tuesday, the High Court felt that the jury should have given Cardinal Pell the benefit of doubt with respect to his guilt, saying that he might not have been guilty of the crimes. The 78-year-old former treasurer of Vatican left the Barwon Prison near Melbourne after around 400 days in the prison. Cardinal Pell was not in the court to hear the ruling in Brisbane court but was relayed the news by his lawyer.

No will against his accusers says, Cardinal Pell

Picture for representation
FILE PHOTO Australian Cardinal George Pell speaks to journalists at the end of a meeting with sex abuse victims at the Quirinale hotel in Rome, Italy. Reuters

The judges have ordered the acquittal to be entered in the place of the previous convictions. Cardinal Pell cannot be retried for the charges again. Upon his acquittal, he said that the new ruling "remedied a serious injustice" and that he held no "ill will against his accusers."

The Cardinal started serving six years in prison just a year ago for crimes of paedophilia. Pell did not take the stand at the trial and has denied the allegations. He is the highest-ranking Catholic official to be charged for the crimes of child sex offences. The plaintiff had said that the crime took place when Pell was the archbishop of the city of Melbourne.

After his imminent release was clear, Pell said in a statement that he doesn't want his acquittal to add to the "hurt and bitterness so many feels". He also said that this was not a "referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the church."

According to AFP the Cardinal left the prison in a black car soon after the previous conviction was replaced. The Cardinal was previously charged with five counts of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in the 1990s. Throughout the lengthy court procedure, Pell had maintained his innocence. The court procedure has led to the Cardinal being removed from several high positions in the Vatican but there have been no internal investigations.