Australia’s highest court agrees to hear Cardinal George Pell’s appeal on sexual abuse charges

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    The decision by the High Court of Australia comes nearly a year after a unanimous jury found Cardinal George Pell guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral in the late 1990s, shortly after Pell became archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city.

    Pope Francis’s former finance minister was sentenced to six years in prison in March.

     

    He is no longer a member of Francis’s Council of Cardinals or a Vatican official.

    The Victoria state Court of Appeal rejected his appeal in August.

    Pell, 78, is in a Melbourne prison. He did not attend the High Court in Canberra to hear the decision.

    Two of the seven justices – Michelle Gordon and James Edelman – heard Pell’s application for an appeal and unanimously approved it for a hearing by the full bench.

    The court rejects around 90% of such applications.

    An appeal hearing cannot happen before the judges return from their summer break in early February.

    Pell’s lawyers argued in their 12-page application for a High Court appeal that two state appeals court judges made an error in dismissing his appeal in August.

    The judges made a mistake by requiring Pell to prove the abuse was impossible, rather than putting the onus of proof on prosecutors, the lawyers said.

    They also said the two judges erred in finding the jury’s guilty verdicts were reasonable.

    Pell’s lawyers argued there was reasonable doubt about…

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