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Cardinal George Pell will walk free after 405 days in jail after the High Court on Tuesday ruled in his favour.

The cardinal will leave Barwon Prison today, near Geelong, after an extraordinary legal fight to clear his name.

It took High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel only about a minute to deliver the history-making decision.

She said special leave was granted, the appeal allowed, and that the Victorian Court of Appeal’s earlier decision be set aside. In its place, his conviction was quashed.

The High Court ruled 7-0 in Pell’s favour.

The 78 year old Pell, who had steadfastly maintained his innocence throughout a lengthy court process, exited the jail where he has been held for the last year and issued a statement saying that a “serious injustice” had been remedied by the decision.

A jury had convicted Pell of the offences in December 2018 and that decision was upheld by a three-judge panel in Victoria state’s Court of Appeal last August, in a split 2-1 verdict.

But Australia’s High Court found there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof.”

In his statement, Pell thanked his lawyers, supporters and family and said he held “no ill will” toward his accuser.

“I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” he said.

“However my trial was not a referendum on the Catholic Church; nor a referendum on how Church authorities in Australia dealt with the crime of paedophilia in the Church.

“The point was whether I had committed these awful crimes, and I did not.”

Pell’s lawyers had argued there were “compounding improbabilities” in the case, including that Pell would not have had the time or opportunity to molest the boys in the priests’ sacristy after Mass, when he would usually be on the cathedral steps greeting members of the congregation.

The High Court found that though the jury had “assessed the complainant’s evidence as thoroughly credible and reliable“, unchallenged evidence from other witnesses required the jury “acting rationally” to have “entertained a reasonable doubt as to the applicant’s guilt.”


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