sabato 22 giugno 2019

George Pell hideaway plan after threats
The Weekend Australian
(John Ferguson) Supporters of George Pell are planning a safe hideaway for the cardinal should he succeed in having his conviction for child sex abuse overturned on appeal.
Amid fears of a backlash and threats against Pell, his backers are making preliminary arrangements for him to live in a secure compound, possibly in NSW. Friends have also left open the option of him returning at least briefly to live in relative anony­mity in Rome, but not in his former­ capacity as the Vatican treasurer.
But if his appeal fails, Pell is likely to be moved to a country prison that specialises in securing sex offende­rs and has a high level of personal security.
He is currently being held in solit­ary confinement in the Melbourne Assessment Prison for 23 hours a day because of the risk to his safety. There are two prisons in western Victoria where he is most likely to go if the appeal fails, both about two hours’ drive west of Melbourne: one at Ararat and the other at Langi Kal Kal.
His supporters are not predicting whether he will be successful, because of the significant legal setbacks he has suffered over the years and the unpredictability of the Court of Appeal. Next Saturday marks two years since The Australian revealed Pell had been charged with sex offences.
The Weekend Australian under­stands that, despite uncertainty about the appeal outcome, preliminary planning is under way in the event of Pell, 78, being set free. The appeal is based on three grounds, including that the jury got it wrong when it convicted­ him of five sex offences at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathed­ral in 1996 and 1997. The gravest involved forced oral sex with a teenage choir boy.
Victoria is not believed to be favoured as a potential permanent location for Pell because of his high profile and the publicity that surrounded his court appearances and sentence. The cardinal, some of his supporter­s, and the church more broadly have been bombarded with criticism and threats in the wake of his conviction on child sex crimes.
Appearing before the Victor­ian Court of Appeal, he had the highest level of security, surroun­d­ed by the Correctio­ns equiv­alent of special­ operations officers.
Pell left the Melbourne archdiocese nearly 20 years ago and, until being sentenced to a minimum three years and eight months’ jail, had not been living in his home state. One strong optio­n would be for him to live within the grounds of a seminary in western Sydney where he stayed in the lead-up to his court proceedings.
“We’re not making any assump­tions at all about whether the appeal will be successful,’’ a friend said. “It’s one day at a time.’’
The Vatican has said Pell’s future­ within the church would be decided only once his legal option­s were exhausted.
If Pell is unsuccessful in the Victorian Court of Appeal his lawyers­ could seek to take the case to the High Court.
He is expected to appear in the Court of Appeal’s makeshift dock when the judgment is delivered.
There is intense speculation about the timing of the Court of Appeal’s decision. There is a window of opportunity for it to rule next week but it goes into recess from June 29 to July 14, raising the spectre of the judgment not being delivered for several weeks.
The court said judgments and reasons in the Court of Appeal were handed down at a hearing, and that the whole judgment was not usual­ly read out, although a summary may be. The public has not been granted access to the evidence of the complainant, normal procedure in sex abuse cases.
However, the judgment may contain further references to the evidence, without identifying the sole living complainant from the cathedral convictions case.
Three Court of Appeal judges are presiding: Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Court of Appeal president Chris Maxwell and Mark Weinberg.
Pell received sentences for one charge of sexual penetration with a child under 16 and four counts of indecent acts with, or in the ­presence of, a child under 16.
He is the highest-ranking Catholic in the world to have been convicted of child sex abuse offence­s. The Vatican is conducting its own inquiry into him.
The Weekend Australian