Australia’s highest court has acquitted former Vatican treasurer George Pell of sexually assaulting two teenaged choirboys in the 1990s, allowing the 78-year-old cardinal to walk free from jail.
The High Court’s verdict ends the most high profile case of alleged historical sex abuse to rock the Roman Catholic Church.
At the time the sexual abuse case came up against Australian Cardinal George Pell, the highest ranking catholic official to ever be publicly accused of child sex offences, it was denied and described as a ‘product of fantasy’ in 2016.
Since Pell was charged with multiple sexual offences assault in 2017, he had always pleaded not guilty to all the charges, He was later sentenced to six years in prison on the 13th of march, 2019.
Tuesday’s acquittal brings an immediate end to Cardinal Pell’s six-year jail sentence.
Pell, who has maintained his innocence throughout the lengthy court process, left Barwon Prison in the back seat of a black vehicle under police guard with police road blocks in place.
The seven judges of the High Court agreed unanimously that the jury in the cardinal’s trial “ought to have entertained a doubt” as to his guilt.
Supporters of church abuse victims in Australia were shocked after the country’s high court aquitted former Vatican treasurer.
Speaking at a news conference, prime minister Scott Morrison said he feels for all victims of abuse but the High Court’s decision “must be respected”.
It is indeed an intense and difficult time for many people,” including the complainant, Pell, and Catholics in general.
While the bright, colourful ribbons remain tied on the fence of the Vatican’s former Treasurer George Pell’s church, St Patrick’s Cathedral in his hometown of Ballarat when he was taken into custody in February 2019, as a mark of respect for victims of child sexual assault, it remains unclear whether Cardinal Pell will return to his post as Vatican treasurer.