Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell have lodged a special leave application with the high court to try to appeal his historical sex abuse convictions, which will be his final avenue to have his conviction overturned.
The high court on Tuesday confirmed it had received the application through its Melbourne registry.
The lodging of the appeal does not mean the high court will agree to hear the case. First, the matter will be considered by a panel of two to three judges, and will either be dismissed or approved. The parties may be called to a brief hearing for further consideration. A decision about whether special leave to appeal will be granted is usually made on the same day as the hearing.
At least five and sometimes all seven justices of the high court will hear the appeal if it is granted. The appeals process can take several months, and is unlikely to be considered before 2020. In the meantime, Pell remains in Melbourne Assessment Prison, receiving letters and visits from his supporters. Pell has maintained his innocence throughout the process.
The 78 year-old was sentenced to a six-year prison sentence for sexually abusing two 13-year-old former choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral when he was the archbishop of Melbourne in 1996. He will be eligible for parole after serving a term of three years and eight months.
In August the Victorian court of appeal – the highest court in the state – dismissed Pell’s appeal. He had 28 days to appeal to the high court, with lawyers filing his application at the 11th hour on Tuesday.
The jury had not been unreasonable in convicting Pell on one count of sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16 and four counts of an indecent act against a child under the age of 16, the Victorian court of appeal chief justice, Anne Ferguson, and appeal court president justice, Chris Maxwell, previously found.
A third judge, Mark Weinberg, disagreed, finding the complainant was inclined to embellish aspects of his testimony and that he could not exclude the possibility that some of what he said was concocted. But in the court of appeal, judges are required only to reach a majority decision, which meant Pell’s appeal failed. It is as yet unclear on what grounds Pell’s lawyers are appealing to the high court.
More to come …