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Cardinal George Pell’s appeal against conviction set to be held next week

Appeal approaching: Cardinal George Pell will return to court June 5 and 6 for an appeal against his convictions.

JAILED Cardinal George Pell will return to an Australian court June 5 and 6 for an appeal against his conviction for sexually abusing two Melbourne choirboys in the 1990s.

Lawyers for Cardinal Pell, who has been behind bars since February, will argue his guilty verdict was “unreasonable”.

Cardinal Pell was handed a six-year prison sentence, after being convicted in December, of the sexual abuse of one choirboy in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral and molesting another in 1996 soon after he became an archbishop.

His high-profile barrister Robert Richter QC filed an application for appeal against the conviction arguing it should be overturned on three grounds.

Mr Richter has since stepped back from the case, describing his “disappointment and anger” at the jury decision to find Cardinal Pell guilty.

Specialist appeals barrister Bret Walker SC will run the appeal.

Three judges will first decide if Cardinal Pell should be granted leave to appeal and, if so, the appeal is to be heard over two days.

His legal team is expected to argue the verdicts were “unreasonable” because the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt Cardinal Pell was guilty, based on the word of the single surviving complainant against “unchallenged exculpatory evidence” of more than 20 Crown witnesses.

“… It was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone,” the notice of appeal states.

The legal team is also set to argue Judge Kidd was mistaken in not allowing the defence to use a video graphic depicting the layout of St Patrick’s in Mr Richter’s closing arguments, which he said would demonstrate the offending was impossible.

A third ground claims there was a “fundamental irregularity” in the trial because Cardinal Pell was not arraigned – asked if he pleaded guilty or not guilty – in front of the chosen jury.

If the judges accept the first ground, Cardinal Pell’s conviction would be overturned and he would be released.

A new trial could be ordered if they accept the second or third grounds.

While Cardinal Pell remains Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, the Holy See has launched its own investigation with the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will handling the case.

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