Cardinal George Pell loses appeal against child sex abuse convictions in Australia

Our Foreign Staff
George Pell attends court in Australia, Melbourne  - REX

Jailed former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has lost his appeal against child sex offence convictions.

Once the Vatican's third-ranking official, the 78-year-old convicted paedophile was sentenced this year to six years in jail for sexually assaulting two 13-year-old choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s.

"He will continue to serve his sentence of six years imprisonment," said Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, dismissing a series of appeals from Pell's lawyers.

Pell is the most senior Catholic convicted of child sex abuse, making his case and Wednesday's ruling a touchstone moment for believers and victims groups around the world.

Following the ruling, Pell - who will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months - maintained his innocence and said he was now considering a second and final appeal.

"Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision today," said a statement issued through the church.

"His legal team will thoroughly examine the judgement in order to determine a special leave application to the High Court."

A large crowd of victims, advocates, lawyers and media gathered outside the court ahead of the hotly awaited verdict, with a long queue to enter the building forming along the street.

Julie Cameron, an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse, addresses the media at the Supreme Court of Victoria  Credit: Getty

After more than two months of deliberations, a three-judge appeals panel handed down its decision.

The clergyman's lawyers raised 13 objections to his conviction, casting doubt on everything from the physical possibility of Pell removing his robes to the credibility of the main witness.

They argued the verdict was "unreasonable".

The now-adult victim - who cannot be named for legal reasons - said the "stressful" four-year legal fight had taken him "to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from."

Dismissing vocal media critics, the man said the death of his friend, the second choirboy, from a drug overdose had prompted him to break his silence.

"After attending the funeral of my childhood friend... I felt a responsibility to come forward," he said in a statement read by his lawyer.

"I am not an advocate. You wouldn't know my name. I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors."

A lawyer for the father of the second victim said he felt "a weight had been lifted."

"He feels that justice has been delivered today. He has a real sense of relief that George Pell is behind bars tonight," Lisa Flynn told AFP.

Protesters celebrate outside of the Supreme Court of Victoria as Cardinal George Pell loses his appeal Credit: Getty

Two so-called "fallback" arguments for Pell related to alleged procedural errors during his trial.

His lawyers argued they should have been allowed to show an animated reconstruction of people's movements in the cathedral on the days of the assaults.

They also took issue with the fact that Pell was not arraigned in the presence of the jury. The process was completed via video link so the large pool of potential jurors was able to watch.

Pell had already faced two juries, after his first trial in 2018 ended in a hung jury.

But Pell is still be able to challenge the decision in Australia's High Court, the country's final court of appeal.