Video reporting and filming by TAVLEEN SINGH
Article by SALONEE MISTRY
George Pell will stay behind bars after the Supreme Court today threw out his appeal against convictions for historical child sex abuse.
The decision was met with a cheer from outside the court, where supporters of sex abuse victims by the Catholic Church had rallied.
Pell showed no emotion when the decision was handed down.
Long-time advocate for church abuse victims, Chrissie Foster, wept as she spoke outside court.
Her two daughters Emma and Katie were both raped by Catholic priest Kevin O’Donnell while at primary school in the 1980s.
Ms Foster sought help from George Pell, before spending years fighting him for any of the church’s victim compensation.
“I am so glad it was not overturned after everything. It’s all gossip until it’s proven in court and in this case it has been proven twice I guess,” Ms Foster said.
“It’s a wonderful day for survivors and victims as they know justice will be served no matter how high you are, what you do or how old you are,” she said.
“This is indeed a good day.”
Abuse survivor Vlad Selakovic, who arrived almost three hours before the decision was to be handed down, said he was relieved Pell would remain a convicted child sex offender.
“We are very happy that he is not walking free from court,” Mr Selakovic said.
“These people have inflicted so much pain and injustice on other people’s lives and this is justice being served.”
During a trial in March last year, Pell was convicted of four counts of committing an indecent act with a child and one of sexual penetration of a child aged under 16.
Pell’s appeal, which was heard over two days in June, was today decided upon by three judges: Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Anne Ferguson, President of the Court of Appeal Justice Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg.
Two out of three judges had to agree, in order to dismiss each of the three grounds of appeal.
They listened to more than 30 hours of recorded evidence, read about 2000 pages of trial transcripts and visited St Patrick’s Cathedral in Ballarat, to see where some of the offences were committed.
The primary ground for appeal was that the guilty verdicts were ‘unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence’.
The appeal in this case was a success.
The second ground of appeal was the refusal by the trial judge to allow a 19 minute animation presentation. The third was on the grounds of fundamental irregularity in the trial process. Appeal on both these grounds was denied.
By majority however, Justice Ferguson told the court Pell’s appeal was dismissed.
“This case has divided the community,” she said.
“It was open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Cardinal Pell was guilty of the offences charged.”
A representative of Cardinal Pell released a statement to say the former church leader was “disappointed” by the decision.
“Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today. However, his legal team will thoroughly examine the judgment in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court,” the statement read.
“While noting the 2-1 split decision, Cardinal Pell maintains his innocence. We thank his many supporters.”
Pell will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.