Australia

George Pell to be stripped of his Order of Australia

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Catholic Cardinal George Pell will be stripped of his Order of Australia after losing an appeal against his child sex abuse conviction.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Wednesday his sympathies lay with the victims of child sexual abuse, not just today but "on every single day".

"My understanding is that this (appeal loss) would result in the stripping of the honours that are decided externally to the government," Mr Morrison said.

"That is a process that is done independently, and that course will now follow."

Cardinal George Pell receives the Order of Australia from Governor General Michael Jeffery in Canberra, September 2, 2005.
Cardinal George Pell receives the Order of Australia from Governor General Michael Jeffery in Canberra, September 2, 2005 (AAP)
AAP

He urged all Australians who find themselves reliving their abuse as a result of the public attention given to the Pell case to "reach out to those around them, to reach out to the services that are there for them".

"The courts have done their job. They've rendered their verdict," he said.

"That's the system of justice in this country and that must be respected."

In 2005 Pell received the honour for his service to the Catholic Church in Australia and internationally and for raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education and social justice.

Pell to remain behind bars

Cardinal George Pell will remain behind bars after failing in his bid to appeal five convictions for sexually abusing two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s.

Pell was convicted in December over the rape of one 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

He was emotionless in the dock on Wednesday morning as Victoria's Court of Appeal rejected his appeal in a 2-1 decision.

Pell did not appeal his sentence, so the six-year prison term, with a minimum of three years and eight months before he's eligible for parole, stands.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson read a summary of their 325-page judgment, revealing she and Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell agreed that his appeal on a ground that the verdicts were "unsafe and unsatisfactory" should be dismissed.

One of Pell's victims died in 2014, while the other gave evidence at trial.

George Pell departs the Supreme Court of Victoria.
George Pell departs the Supreme Court of Victoria, 21 August 2019 (AAP)
AAP

Justice Ferguson said she and Justice Maxwell found there was nothing in his account of Pell's offending that meant the jury must have had a doubt as to the cardinal's guilt.

"Throughout his evidence (he) came across as someone who was telling the truth," she said.

"He did not seek to embellish his evidence or tailor it in a manner favourable to the prosecution."

But Justice Mark Weinberg disagreed with the majority, and believed Pell should have been acquitted of all charges.

He couldn't exclude the possibility that some of what the man, now in his 30s, had said was concocted.

He believed the man's evidence about a second incident, a month or so after the first, was entirely implausible and unconvincing.

"To his mind, there is a significant possibility that the Cardinal may not have committed the offences," Justice Ferguson said.

In a statement after the decision, the surviving victim said he had been in a dark place after the death of the other boy, his childhood friend, and felt a responsibility to come forward.

"The experiences I have been through have helped me understand what is truly important," he said, revealing he recently became a father.

"I just hope that this is all over now."

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The judges watched more than 30 hours of recorded testimony from 12 of the 24 trial witnesses, read more than 2000 pages of transcripts and visited the cathedral.

They also examined Pell's ornamental robes, which the majority found could have been moved or pulled to one side to allow Pell to expose his penis, as was central to the allegations.

The appeal also unanimously failed on two other grounds, which they found should not be considered at all.

They found no error in County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd's decision to ban Pell's defence from using an animation outlining their claims as to what occurred in the cathedral in December 1996.

Justice Ferguson said there was no evidence the animated scenario presented had occurred, and that it was "plainly intended to plant into the minds of the jury that the complainant's account was impossible".

They also ruled that Pell was not required to be physically present when he was arraigned - officially asked how he pleaded - in front of the jury pool. Presence via videolink, as occurred, was sufficient.

Those seeking information or support relating to child sexual assault can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380. Lifeline is available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.

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