Australia

George Pell's High Court appeal stirs up child sexual abuse survivors' distress

Cardinal George Pell has always denied any wrongdoing. Source: AAP

The full bench of the High Court will hear arguments on cardinal George Pell's appeal of his child sexual abuse conviction.

Advocates for child sexual abuse survivors say they face months of uncertainty after disgraced cardinal George Pell was given one final opportunity to challenge his conviction. 

The High Court announced on Wednesday that the jailed cardinal's appeal bid would proceed to a special hearing before the full bench. 

Pell, 78, was found guilty by a jury of the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, but he has always denied any wrongdoing.

The Victorian Court of Appeal in August upheld a jury verdict convicting Pell in a 2-1 ruling.

George Pell departs the Supreme Court of Victoria, Melbourne, Wednesday, August 21, 2019. Cardinal George Pell's appeal has been dismissed by the Court of Appeal and he will remain in prison. (AAP Image/James Ross) NO ARCHIVING
George Pell departs the Supreme Court of Victoria after his appeal was dismissed in August.
AAP

Chrissie Foster, an advocate for child sex abuse survivors, said she was surprised by the High Court decision. 

"Very disappointed because it brings it all up again and makes it continue," Ms Foster told SBS News.  

Ms Foster, the mother of two girls abused by a Catholic priest, said it would be a very tough day for people who have experienced trauma at the hands of Catholic priests.

"It was so close to being done and finished with, they've had their decision, they've had their verdict and they won and now it's all up in the air again, it could be all taken away."

In its submissions to the High Court, the cardinal's legal team had argued there remained reasonable doubt about their client's opportunity to offend. 

The jailed cardinal's lawyers will still need to lodge a formal appeal to the High Court and the case is unlikely to be heard until next year. 

Chrissie Foster has followed George Pell's case closely.
Chrissie Foster has followed George Pell's case closely.
AAP

Prosecutors responded by arguing that the appeal application did not raise any questions of law for the High Court to rule on. 

Pell is serving a six-year jail term and is not eligible for parole until he has served three years and eight months of his sentence.

Blue Knot Foundation President Cathy Kezelman said the publicity around the high-profile case would result in many victims revisiting their own trauma.  

"With that comes very strong emotions, a lot of distress, a lot of anger, a lot of rage, a lot of confusion and frustration." 

She urged survivors to seek support from people they trust. 

"For people in the community who have a loved one who has been sexually abused, just be there and sit with them, say you believe them and ask them what they need." 

With AAP.

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