Australian court to consider Cardinal George Pell's appeal hearing in June

Fie photo of cardinal George Pell. Photograph:( Reuters )

Agencia EFE Sydney NSW, Australia Mar 06, 2019, 04.25 PM (IST)

The Australian Court of Appeal will consider Cardinal George Pell's application to appeal his conviction on five charges of child sexual assault in 1996 in June, legal sources said Wednesday.

The hearing will be held on June 5 and 6, the Supreme Court of Victoria said in a statement.

A Melbourne court on December 11, had found the former head of Vatican's finances guilty of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys after mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

The verdict, however, was not made public to prevent it from influencing another lawsuit against Pell for an act of pederasty allegedly committed in the 1970s in his hometown of Ballarat, and which was finally dismissed due to lack of evidence that same day.

On February 26, a judge lifted the suppression order on Pell's trial and subsequently made public the verdict.

On March 13, Judge Peter Kidd of the County Court of Victoria will deliver the sentence against Pell, who faces 10 years in prison for each of the five charges for which he was convicted.

The defence team of Pell, who has been under custody since February 27, said in the appeal that the verdicts are "unreasonable and cannot be supported having regard to the evidence," as it could not satisfy the jury "beyond a reasonable doubt on the word of the Complainant alone."

The three-point document presented on February 21, also said there was a "fundamental irregularity in the trial process because the accused was not arraigned in the presence of the jury panel as required by sections 210 and 217 of the Criminal Procedure Act 2009."

The release of the appeal document had coincided with that of a 2016 video recording of Pell's police interrogation in Rome.

The video, released by a Melbourne court, shows Pell replying to his charges.

"What a load of absolute and disgraceful rubbish. Completely false. Madness," says Pell.

Asked about sexual penetration, Pell is heard telling his interrogators that "you could scarcely imagine a place that was more unlikely to be committing paedophilia crimes than the sacristy of a cathedral after mass."

Pell, who once was Australia's senior-most Catholic, was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16 and of four charges of an indecent act with another minor, also under the age of 16.

Following the controversy, the Vatican had removed him as the financial chief, stripped him of his priestly duties, and banned any contact with children.