Cardinal George Pell will today be released from prison after the High Court of Australia handed down a judgement in Brisbane on Tuesday morning unanimously quashing his conviction for historic child sex offences.
Ultimately the full bench determined that there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
In its opening statement the judgement reads:
“The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place.”
Or, as The Guardian‘s Melissa Davey, puts it:
“In other words, it wasn’t enough that they found the witness believable, compelling, and honest. The other evidence should have called his account into question, the bench found.”
The judgement delivering George Pell a release from prison reads:
“On the assumption that the jury had assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable, the evidence of the opportunity witnesses nonetheless required the jury, acting rationally, to have entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt in relation to the offences involved in both alleged incidents”.
News of Pell’s acquittal has been met with widespread disbelief and many have offered sympathy to the victim known as ‘J’, and other victims of child sex offences who have been disbelieved.
On Twitter barely an hour after the judgement was announced #Pell, #HighCourt and #devastated were among Australia’s top trending words.
George Pell will be released from jail in Barwon on Wednesday afternoon.
While the criminal proceedings are now finalised, there are a number of civil suits against Pell that he will face in the coming months.
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