Victorian Court of Appeal dismisses George Pell’s appeal against child sex abuse convictions

Early today, the Victorian Court of Appeal has dismissed Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against his child sex abuse convictions. Pell has lost his appeal by a majority of 2-1 from a panel of three Judges.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg of the Victorian supreme court published their reasons in a 323-page judgment along with a seven-page summary.

A webcast of the judgment is also available online.

The former choirboy who was sexually assaulted by George Pell in 1996 and 1997 has issued a statement following this appeal decision.

This is his statement (republished from The Age newspaper):

I am relieved by the decision of the court of appeal. It is four years since I reported to the police. The criminal process has been stressful. The journey has taken me to places that in my darkest moments I feared I would not return from.

The justice machine rolls on with all of its processes and punditry almost forgetting about the people at the heart of the matter.

Despite this, I appreciate that the criminal process has afforded Pell every opportunity to challenge the charges and every opportunity to be heard. I am glad he has had the best legal representation that money can buy.

There are a lot of checks and balances in the criminal justice process and the appeals process is just one of them. I just hope that it is all over now.

Some commentators have suggested that I reported to the police somehow for my own personal gain. Nothing could be further from the truth. I have risked my privacy, my health, my wellbeing and my family.

I have not instructed any solicitor in relation to a claim for compensation. This is not about money and it never has been

Some commentators have suggested that I am somehow out to cause damage to the Catholic church. I am not on a mission to do anybody any harm. Although my faith has taken a battering, it is still part of my life and part of the lives of my loved ones. I am not an advocate.

You wouldn’t know my name. I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors, although I am glad that those advocates are out there. But that is not my path.

After attending the funeral of my childhood friend, the other choir boy, I felt a responsibility to come forward. I knew that he had been in a dark place, I have been in a dark place. I gave a statement to the police because I was thinking of him and his family. I felt I should say what I saw and what had happened to me. I had experienced something terrible as a child and I wanted some good to come of it. I would like to acknowledge my friend who passed away, the other choir boy.

I would like to acknowledge the courage of those people who reported to the police. For one reason or another, those matters did not proceed.

My heart goes out to you. I would like to acknowledge the Victoria Police and Office of Public Prosecutions. I am grateful for the steady hand of your honour Justice [Peter] Kidd in guiding the trial and his compassionate, balanced and fair sentencing.

In February, due to other cases not going ahead, I ended up in the spotlight alone. The suppression order was to be lifted and I suddenly found myself in the centre of worldwide media interest.

I asked Viv Waller to help me manage the considerable media interest in the case and to protect my identity and to protect my family. I could not afford legal representation but that did not matter to her. I will be forever grateful that Viv agreed to help me and to do so for free.

She has liaised with the media on my behalf. She has allowed the storms of public opinion to buffet her so that my young family could find safe harbour.

My journey has not been an easy one. It has been all the more stressful because it involved a high profile figure.

I thank the media for respecting my privacy and for continuing to protect my identity. I need to be able to define myself away from all of this.

Recently I have started a new chapter in my life as a father. The experiences I have been through have helped me understand what is truly important.

I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everyone is equal before the law and no one is above the law.