06 April 2020

Pell decision imminent

COVID-19 has affected just about every aspect of our lives and how we do things – but even though all of this, it’s important to remember the Courts are still operating and the wheels of justice continue to turn.

The High Court has announced that tomorrow at 10am EST (8am here in WA) it will hand down its much-anticipated decision in Cardinal George Pell’s application for special leave (essentially “permission”) to appeal his 2018 conviction of historic sexual offences.

Pell unsuccessfully appealed his initial conviction to the Victorian Court of Appeal last year, and this is his last chance for a bid for freedom.

High Court Special Leave applications are quite unusual – there is no automatic right to a High Court appeal as there is to other types of appeal and so Pell must first obtain special permission from the High Court for the appeal to actually go ahead.

The High Court decision tomorrow will go one of four ways –

  1. The Court may refuse special leave, and if so the gate is shut on Pell and he returns to prison to serve the remainder of his sentence;
    If the Court does grant special leave, it could still dismiss his appeal, also meaning Pell returns to prison and serves his sentence. If this happens the Court will publish some additional reasons setting out why the appeal actually failed;
  2. The Court could grant special leave and allow the appeal, meaning the conviction is overturned and Pell becomes a free man; or
  3. The Court may grant special leave and then send the case back to the Victorian Court of Appeal for them to hear the case all over again.
  4. This is one of the most prominent High Court cases Australia has seen in the past half century, and the world is watching along with us as the case finally draws nearer to a close. Watch this space, because whatever the outcome it will make news worldwide.

Andrew Bower began his legal career as a law clerk in 2008, whilst studying a Bachelor of Laws and a Bachelor of Commerce majoring in finance at Murdoch University.