Australia's High Court quashes George Pell's abuse conviction

Cardinal George Pell(Photo: Reuters)

The Australian High Court has overturned Cardinal George Pell's conviction for child sexual abuse. 

The former treasurer to the Vatican has been freed following the ruling on Tuesday. 

The court said that the "evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof" and that the appellate court had failed to consider whether there "remained a reasonable possibility that the offending had not taken place". 

The cardinal, 78, was the most senior Catholic figure to have been jailed for abuse when a 2018 jury found against him in a case involving two boys in Melbourne in the 1990s. 

He has repeatedly denied the allegations since being charged by police in 2017. 

In a statement, Cardinal Pell said the "injustice" of his conviction "has been remedied" by the High Court's verdict. 

"I hold no ill will towards my accuser," he said in a statement.

"I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel; there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough.

"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."

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, said in a statement that the acquittal would be "welcomed by many" but be "devastating" for others.

"Today's outcome will be welcomed by many, including those who have believed in the Cardinal's innocence throughout this lengthy process," he said. 

"We also recognise that the High Court's decision will be devastating for others. Many have suffered greatly through the process, which has now reached its conclusion.

"The result today does not change the Church's unwavering commitment to child safety and to a just and compassionate response to survivors and victims of child sexual abuse.

"The safety of children remains supremely important not only for the bishops, but for the entire Catholic community. Any person with allegations of sexual abuse by Church personnel should go to the police."