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George Pell: a stay of execution in the High Court?

11 March 2020

10:02 AM

11 March 2020

10:02 AM

There will be no rush to judgment in the Cardinal George Pell matter at the High Court in Canberra today. 

The full bench of seven — Chief Justice Kiefel, Justices Bell, Gageler, Keane, Nette, Gordon and Edelman — are expected to take arguments from both sides before declaring if special leave will be granted to hear the Pell appeal. 

If special leave to hear the appeal is granted today, His and Her Honours are expected to spend at least two days listening to arguments from both sides before reserving their decision to allow the individual Justices adequate time to prepare written judgments on the outcome of the appeal.  

Pell will be represented by Sydney silk Bret Walker SC and the prosecution by Victorian DPP Kerri Judd QC. 


The court has several options when dealing with the case that include rejecting the application, accepting it but then rejecting Pell’s arguments, or accepting Pell’s arguments. 

There is an outside chance the case could be referred back to the Victorian Court of Appeal. 

Legal experts believe it is unlikely Pell will walk free this week, even if he gets a favourable outcome. This is because of the view that the court will want to be seen to be carefully deliberating over such a huge decision to overturn a jury verdict. 

Pell has stridently maintained his innocence, saying he did not abuse the children in St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996 and 1997. 

Midday update

The High Court is yet to grant leave for the appeal to be heard.

The proposed appeal grounds are that the Court of Appeal majority erred by finding that their belief in the complainant required the applicant to establish that the offending was impossible “in order to raise and leave a doubt”.

The appeal also alleges that the majority also had erred in their conclusion that the verdicts in the County Court were reasonable.

Terence Maher is a former editor of The Melbourne Times and a longtime observer of the Pell matter.

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