CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s highest court has dismissed the convictions of the most senior Catholic found guilty of child sex abuse.
The High Court Chief Justice Susan Kiefel announced the decision of the seven judges on Tuesday in the appeal of Cardinal George Pell. The decision means he will be released from Barwon Prison outside Melbourne.
Pope Francis’ former finance minister was convicted by a Victoria state jury in 2018 of sexually abusing two 13-year-old choirboys in a back room of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in December 1996 while he was archbishop of Australia’s second-largest city.
Pell was also convicted of indecently assaulting one of the boys by painfully squeezing his genitals after a Mass in early 1997.
The 78-year-old cleric has served more than a year of a six-year sentence. He was ordered to serve three years and eight months behind bars before he became eligible for parole.
The High Court examined whether the Victorian Court of Appeal was correct in its 2-1 majority decision in August to uphold the jury verdicts.