Pell launches last ditch bid for freedom

 

George Pell has lodged his High Court appeal in a last ditch bid to overturn his convictions.

The convicted sex offender is serving a minimum three year and eight month jail term for the abuse of two choir boys at St Patrick's Cathedral while he was archbishop of Melbourne in the mid 1990s.

He has spent more than 200 days in maximum security 23-hour lockdown since being taken into custody in February.

His legal team has been working around the clock preparing the High Court challenge, after the Victorian Court of Appeal dismissed his case in a 2-1 majority ruling last month.

Pell's 28-day appeal period expires tomorrow but his high powered legal team, spearheaded by appeal expert Bret Walker SC, has been fine tuning the High Court paperwork.

George Pell is led away in a prison van after losing his appeal. Picture: Alex Coppel
George Pell is led away in a prison van after losing his appeal. Picture: Alex Coppel

 

His lawyers can lodge no more than 12 pages arguing their application for special leave to appeal.

The application could be decided "on the papers" meaning no court date is required or Pell's lawyers will be given 20 minutes to articulate their case at a hearing.

If leave to appeal is granted, a substantial appeal hearing will follow.

University of Melbourne law professor Jeremy Gans said unless the matter was expedited, it could struggle to get before the court this year.

He said a similar case earlier this year took five months to reach the court meaning the Pell appeal wouldn't get underway until early next year.

"But there's no timeline and the Court can go at the pace it wants," Professor Gans said.

"The Court also sometimes moves quickly because it is concerned that the punishment may be mostly served by the time the matter is heard, assuming no bail is granted, and also if there are health concerns, and both of those things may be a factor in this case," he said.

Professor Gans said if leave was granted, a judgment could be expected within six months.

Pell is driving back to the Melbourne Assessment Prison. Picture: AAP
Pell is driving back to the Melbourne Assessment Prison. Picture: AAP

Despite no immediate plans to move Pell from solitary confinement, where he remains inside the Melbourne Assessment Prison, friends say he remains in good spirits.

But he is anxious about the High Court challenge because he knows it is his last hope to prove his vehemently maintained innocence.

There was wide speculation Pell would be moved to a mainstream prison after the Court of Appeal dismissed his case.

However it is understood there are grave concerns about potential attacks on Pell, one of the state's most high profile prisoners, if he is not kept isolated from other prisoners.

It is feared he could come under attack from prisoner child sexual abuse victims for his perceived failure to stop child abuse within the church.

He is allowed visitors just twice a week, and they must come from a list of 10 approved visitors.

The list is understood to be constantly changing, with Pell recently requesting to see certain close friends.

shannon.deery@news.com.au

@s_deery



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