Cardinal George Pell has been released from prison after Brisbane High Court quashed the child sexual abuse conviction on April 7 after a two-year legal battle. The bench, in its summary judgement, said that it was not enough that the jurors to find the witness believable, reliable and thoroughly credible.
The court said 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. Pell has continuously maintained his innocence since he was charged in 2017 and issues a statement after the decision saying he does not hold ill will towards his accuser.
“However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic church, nor a referendum on how church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church. The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not,” said the Cardinal.
Australia has been working on the legislation to curb the cases of child abuse and last year federal and state attorneys agreed to standardise laws making it mandatory for priests to report child abuse revealed during confessions. The agreement among the top attorneys was based on the three principles for the laws, recommended after the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
Attorneys, in a communique published after the meeting, said that confessional privilege cannot be relied upon to avoid child protection or criminal obligation to report beliefs, suspicions or knowledge of child abuse. There have been several allegations that churches protect paedophile priests and keep law enforcement agencies in dark.
In October, Archbishop Mark Coleridge, president of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, pointing to some “important achievements and initiatives”, had said that Church’s ongoing response to its “shameful” history has marked major milestones in the past year.
“The Church’s work to implement and maintain child-safe practices and environments started before the Royal Commission was announced, but the need to respond to its recommendations has given our work great impetus,” said Coleridge.
(With agency inputs) (Image Credit: AP)