Court Overturns Cardinal's Child Sex Abuse Conviction

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An Australian cardinal who last year was found guilty of five counts of child sex abuse has been released from prison after the country’s High Court unanimously overturned his conviction.

According to CNN, the ruling undoes Cardinal George Pell’s convictions of one count of sexual penetration of a child and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child. Pell’s name will also be removed from Australia’s sex offender registry.

In its two page summary, the High Court wrote that the jury “ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offenses for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.”


Pell, a former top advisor to Pope Francis, was previously convicted of forcing two 13-year-old boys to perform oral sex on him after a mass in Melbourne in 1996, where at the time he served as the city’s archbishop.

CNN reports that the jury’s guilty verdict relied on the evidence of one man who testified that Pell had assaulted him and another boy. The second man didn’t tell anyone about the attack, and committed suicide in 2014 before the allegations surfaced.


Lawyers for the family of the alleged victim who died said their client is “in shock,” and that the original accuser is pursuing a civil claim against the cardinal.

Night blogger at Jezebel

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Obviously this is very disappointing, but I’d be lying if I said I do not find it interesting that Australian appellate courts can review and overturn cases on the basis of factual findings rather than just rulings on law. In the U.S., the bases for appeals are typically limited to situations in which the Judge can be said to have made a mistake in the application of the law, or otherwise exceeded the bounds of their discretion—determinations of as to questions of fact, such as whether any given bit of evidence is persuasive enough or carries enough weight to convict—are generally not reviewable on appeal without some allegation of fraud, or malfeasance.

Any Australian legal professionals here care to weigh in and educate me/us on some of the legal mechanics at play here?