FILE — In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia. An Australian court spokesman says Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)
FILE — In this Feb. 26, 2019, file photo, Cardinal George Pell arrives at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia. An Australian court spokesman says Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s. (AP Photo/Andy Brownbill, File)

Pell victim’s dad hits back at lawyer

Lawyers for paedophile Cardinal George Pell say they have three compelling reasons why their client was treated "unreasonably" during his jury trial which found him guilty of molesting choirboys.

Pell's lawyer Bret Walker SC has opened the proceedings, saying his client's crimes were "literally and logically impossible" because of the dates they took place, the geographical details of where they took place in the church and the timing of them.

In court, Mr Walker SC said his client couldn't have sexually assaulted anyone in the sacristy if he was meeting parishioners at the western door of St Patrick's Cathedral - adding that the distance was "as good as being across the Tasman" in the eyes of the law.

"If he was at the western door then the law of physics means this is literally and logically impossible for the offending to have occurred," he said.

He said it is "disturbing" that the Crown had argued the first instance abuse occurred on December 15 or December 22 in 1996 - when submissions filed also say the abuse in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral may have been on November 3.

"If it didn't take place on one of those two dates the crown case fails," he said.

Mr Walker SC added that it is "literally impossible" the offences could have taken place in the five to six minute time frame accepted by the jury - given the "activities, rituals, practices and customary traditions" that would have been taking place in the church.

The prosecution had argued that a second incident took place in February 1997, when Pell was said to have shoved one of the boys into a wall in a cathedral hallway and sexually assaulted him.

However, Mr Walker argued that there is reasonable doubt that this incident happened.

The victim died in 2014 told his mother he'd never been sexually abused.

"It manifestly raises a reasonable doubt," said Mr Walker SC.

DECEASED VICTIM'S DAD HITS BACK

Hearing what is being said in court today, the lawyers representing the second victim's father have issued a strong statement - hitting out at Mr Walker SC's arguments.

"The argument we are hearing again today about our client's son not telling anyone what Pell did to him holds little persuasion," Lisa Flynn, Shine Lawyers Abuse Law Expert said in the statement.

"Having represented thousands of sex abuse victims, I can tell you that it is not uncommon for victims to wait decades before opening up about what happened to them, a lot even take it to their grave."

Supporters of the church have gathered outside the court. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images
Supporters of the church have gathered outside the court. Picture: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

She added that the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse made clear that this is typical behaviour for sexual abuse victims who are often "riddled with feelings of shame and humiliation".

"It is not unusual to deny abuse, particularly to parents," she said. "Many survivors find it impossible to tell their parents, their beloved mum or dad.

"Sexual abuse victims commonly come forward to report abuse after their parents have passed away as they could not bear to see the devastating impact this would have on their parents."

She added that her client is "anxious", knowing Pell's conviction could be overturned.

 

CALM PELL TAKES NOTES

The jailed 77-year-old has arrived in handcuffs at Melbourne's Court of Appeal where his lawyers will firstly seek leave to appeal.

He entered the court wearing a black jacket and a black shirt with a clerical collar.

He bowed to judges inside a packed courtroom filled with media, members of the public and his own family members.

Pell walked without the assistance of a walking cane which he used at previous hearings and was flanked by four prison guards. He was the last person to take his seat.

He is now taking notes as his lawyer outlines the case for appeal. He did the same during previous hearings, except at sentencing where sat with his hands in his lap.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson told the court all three judges had visited the cathedral where the alleged acts were said to have taken place to "help us understand what evidence the jury considered".

If granted permission, his lawyers will push ahead with a two-day challenge to the criminal convictions.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne. Picture: AAP Image/Julian Smith

Pell is serving at least three years and eight months behind bars for his crimes. It is the first time he's been spotted since sentencing in mid-March.

The former senior Vatican official has continued to deny sexually abusing two choirboys in the 1990s which led to convictions for sexually penetrating a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child.

 

THREE REASONS FOR THE APPEAL

Pell's legal team, led by Sydney specialist appeals barrister Mr Walker SC, will argue the jury verdicts were "unreasonable" on three grounds.

The first argument will be that the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Pell was guilty on the word of the complainant against the "unchallenged" evidence of more than 20 witnesses who supported the cardinal.

"The sole issue at trial was whether the offending had occurred," their case reads.

"The prosecution case relied entirely upon the uncorroborated evidence of the Complainant.

"At the time of the Complainant's first complaint to police in June 2015, the other boy had died but, before his death, he had denied that he was ever offended against while in the choir."

Secondly, that Judge Peter Kidd erred when he did not allow a 19-minute video during closing arguments by Pell's barrister Robert Richter QC.

They claim the video demonstrated the offending would have been impossible.

 

George Pell is expected to appear in court today. Picture: Andy Brownbill/AP
George Pell is expected to appear in court today. Picture: Andy Brownbill/AP

Thirdly, Pell's lawyers will argue there was a "fundamental irregularity" in the trial because the cardinal did not plead guilty or not guilty before the jury.

The lawyers have also argued that the timing of the assaults was "impossible"- saying Pell only said two Sunday Solemn Masses in 1996. The two offences occurred in late 1996 and they were at least a month apart.

They will also argue it wasnot possible for Pell to be alone in the sacristiesonly a few minutes after the end of Mass.

"The incidents described by the complainant would require such a concatenation of startling, remarkable improbable and even impossible things all to have occurred in the same 10-15 minutes that it is implausible to think that any of these witnesses have simply forgotten such a remarkable day," the legal team's written submission states.

Prosecutors have also released written submissions - arguing that the jury accepted the evidence the victim gave to trial and rejected Pell's denials.

"The jury were entitled to accept the complainant as a reliable and credible witness," prosecutors said in their written submission.

"He was skilfully cross-examined for two days by a very experienced member of Senior Counsel.

"During that time, the jury had the singular opportunity to observe the complainant as a witness, and to assess the evidence he gave, as it was tested by a detailed process of cross-examination. The complainant's allegations were not improbable when all of the evidence is carefully considered."

The appeal is being heard 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.

Justice Maxwell and Pell's lawyer are going back and forth over the role of the court is Appeal.

Judge Maxwell put it to Mr Walker that "the tribunal of fact is the jury, not the Court of Appeal".

He said the three judges would "ask ourselves ... was it reasonably open to a jury on the evidence before them to be satisfied about the facts".

Mr Walker told Judge Maxwell: "There is a fact finding role for this court."

Mr Walker also told the court there were three words he would likely repeat regularly throughout the two day hearing - "beyond reasonable doubt".

It is being streamed live online.

 

A decision on the appeal could still be weeks or months away.
A decision on the appeal could still be weeks or months away.


A decision on the appeal could be weeks or months away and if unsuccessful, Pell has declared he won't appeal the sentence.

Support groups have warned the appeal could be traumatic for people who have experienced abuse.

"With this appeal, there is a significant risk that many survivors will be triggered as a result, and thrown back into their own trauma, strong emotions and reactions," Blue Knot Foundation president Cathy Kezelman said.

Pell was sentenced to a maximum six-year jail term by a judge who noted the cardinal could well die in prison.


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