George Pell leaves Barwon Prison after the High Court quashed his conviction on Tuesday. Picture: Mark Stewart
George Pell leaves Barwon Prison after the High Court quashed his conviction on Tuesday. Picture: Mark Stewart

Why the High Court let Pell walk free

The High Court's unanimous decision was clear: there was a significant possibility on all charges that an innocent person was convicted.

Courts are loathed to overturn jury verdicts, and do so rarely.

But on this occasion the High Court found there was simply no other option.

The court found that the jury's belief in the complainant witness ignored inconsistencies with the unchallenged evidence of other opportunity witnesses.

That evidence must have raised a reasonable doubt in the minds of the jury, if they were doing their job properly.

Convicting Pell despite that doubt was wrong.

It is what Pell's legal team had argued before the Victorian Court of Appeal.

In its decision the High Court said the majority of Victoria's Court of Appeal who dismissed Pell's first appeal "failed to engage with the question of whether there remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place, such that there ought to have been a reasonable doubt as to the applicant's guilt."

While the decision to quash Pell's convictions was met with shock and anger, a senior court source said there was no other option.

"The highest court in the land acquitted him unanimously. That suggests the system picked up a grievous error," he said.

"Wanting the most powerful court in the land to unfairly punish someone because of preconceived thinking is dangerous."

shannon.deery@news.com.au

Originally published as Why the High Court let Pell walk free


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