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Civil claim against Pell, Melbourne Archdiocese to continue

In the wake of the passing of Cardinal George Pell, a national plaintiff firm has confirmed it will still progress with a civil claim on behalf of the father of a former altar boy who alleged he was sexually abused by the now-late, top-ranking Australian Catholic cleric.

user iconJerome Doraisamy 11 January 2023 The Bar
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As reported globally this morning, Cardinal George Pell has passed away. The Archbishop of Melbourne, Peter Comensoli, said in a statement that Pell died from heart complications following hip surgery.

Late Cardinal Pell served as the Vatican treasurer between 2014 and 2017, before returning to Australia to face trial for child sexual abuse. In 2018, he was convicted for offences against two teenage boys committed whilst he was the archbishop of Melbourne and spent over 400 days in Barwon Prison in Victoria before the High Court unanimously overturned the conviction.

The late cardinal had always vigorously denied the offences alleged against him.


Former prime minister Tony Abbott tweeted, earlier this morning (Wednesday, 11 January 2023), that Cardinal Pell’s “incarceration on charges that the High Court ultimately scathingly dismissed was a modern form of crucifixion; reputationally at least a kind of living death”.

At the time of the quashing of the conviction, Lawyers Weekly explored the legal implications of the decision to overturn the conviction and what impact it might have on future cases. A contempt case followed against various media outlets, which were accused of breaching suppression orders that prevented them from publishing Cardinal George Pell’s name in relation to the now-overturned charges.

In a statement issued this morning, Shine Lawyers chief legal officer Lisa Flynn noted that the national plaintiff firm is progressing with a civil claim, launched in July of last year, on behalf of the father of a former altar boy who alleged he was sexually abused by Cardinal Pell.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne, she added, is also listed as a defendant in this matter.

“The claim will continue against the church and whatever estate Pell has left behind,” she said.

“A civil trial likely would have provided the opportunity to cross-examine Pell and truly test his defence against these allegations.”

“There is still a great deal of evidence for this claim to rely on, and the court will be asked in due course to make its ruling on that evidence,” Ms Flynn posited.