The George Pell Court of Appeal decision will be the most significant day for the Australian church in its troubled modern history. For months Pell has been held in his own legal purgatory in Melbourne Assessment Prison, a horrible halfway house for prisoners as corrections officers determine where to send them. It is unusual for Pell to have been kept at the MAP for months, with the normal stays measured in days.
Source: News Corp
End looms for Pell’s legal purgatory
But Pell, whatever anyone in authority says, is a special case.
There are three broad options for the judges next Wednesday morning.
First, his convictions are struck out and Pell walks, pending any High Court action.
Second, the court upholds the jury decision and Pell goes on to serve the remainder of his minimum three years and eight months, probably in a rural prison for sex offenders.
Third, the judges order a retrial.
For the sanity of all those involved — victims, Pell, the church — the best outcome would be a decisive result.
Even a retrial would add to a sense of legal chaos, making it the third jury Pell would have faced.
As The Australian has stated repeatedly, the victim in this case has told a compelling story about what happened in the cathedral.
Pell, 78, will never recover from the fact a jury convicted him of multiple sex offences. His career is materially ruined.
But there remain significant and valid questions about whether he should have been convicted of the cathedral charges. Certainly the first tranche that occurred around Christmas in 1996.
Whether it was probable the first set of cathedral offences could have occurred within the timeframe, with the sacristy door open, with the myriad people in St Patrick’s and in the context of the expert evidence to the trial.
It is this capacity for doubt that has fuelled the cautious optimism of his supporters.
But that cautious optimism is tempered by the fact every other church prediction about the police’s cathedral case has been wrong.
This is why no-one is overly confident that Pell will walk free shortly after 9.30am on Wednesday.