What will happen next for George Pell, now his conviction has been quashed.

After spending 405 days behind bars, Cardinal George Pell has just spent his first night a free man, after his sex abuse convictions were quashed by the High Court.

The 78-year-old, who has been serving a six year sentence at Barwon Prison in Victoria, received the news from his lawyers shortly after the court published the decision online.

WATCH: The father of one of George Pell‘s accusers says he has “lost faith” in Australia’s criminal justice system. Post continues after video.

Video via Seven

The former advisor to the Pope, and highest ranking Catholic official in Australia, was convicted by a jury in December 2018 of abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996.

“I hold no ill will to my accuser, I do not want my acquittal to add to the hurt and bitterness so many feel, there is certainly hurt and bitterness enough,” said Pell in a statement after being released from prison yesterday.

“I have consistently maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice,” he added.

LISTEN: Why has George Pell been released from prison? Post continues after podcast.

“I respect the decision of the High Court. I accept the outcome,” Witness J said in a statement released by his lawyer Vivian Waller, adding that they hoped the outcome wouldn’t discourage child sexual abuse survivors from coming forward.

So what’s Pell’s life going to look like now?

Does this mean all legal pathways have been exhausted?

It took two juries to convict George Pell after the first resulted in a hung result.

Last year, Victoria’s court of appeal upheld the December 2018 conviction and so his legal team took his case to the High Court, the final path in his bid for freedom.

“The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant’s guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted, and ordered that the convictions be quashed and that verdicts of acquittal be entered in their place,” the High Court said in a summary of their ruling.


Tuesday’s decision from the High Court concludes the legal process and there will be no further trials concerning these convictions.

According to Lawyer’s Weekly, the church itself might still be involved with civil litigation.

Slater and Gordon principal lawyer Nick Hart, told the publication, abuse survivors still have an avenue to bring law action against Cardinal Pell under the civil system’s common law abuse claims, even now that his guilty verdict has been overturned.

Now that Cardinal Pell’s appeal is over, The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse can release their unredacted findings into how church leaders in Ballarat and Melbourne handled the abuse that went on.

Will he remain a Cardinal?

Through his entire legal battle, George Pell was never stripped of his title – and so remains a cardinal.

Just hours after the High Court overturned his conviction, Pope Francis offered his morning Mass and said: “I would like to pray today for all those people who suffer unjust sentences resulting from intransigence.”

He didn’t mention Pell by name, but the pope went on to compare the suffering of those inflicted with unjust sentences today to the persecution of Jesus by Jewish community elders with “obstinacy and rage even though he was innocent.”


Pell was appointed by the pope to oversee the Vatican’s finances in 2014, but his appointment ran out while he was in prison and it wasn’t renewed.

According to Noel Debien, a religion specialist with the ABC’s radio religion and ethics unit, “he’s still a cardinal, and he’s still a cardinal with voting rights. So if the pope were to die, he would be a cardinal elector for the next pope – that wasn’t taken away from him.”

“His official position in the Vatican is over, but he can still vote in the conclave, and they have previously – with cardinals under difficulty – given them a job in Rome,” Debien told Mamamia’s news podcast The Quicky.

But Catholic priest and historian Paul Collins doesn’t think that’s likely given Pell’s age.

“He’s over 75. That means that he’s beyond the retirement age of people working within the Vatican. So I don’t think he’ll be going back there,” he told the ABC.

When Pell turns 80, he will also no longer be allowed to vote in the election of any new pope.

Where will he live?

This morning Cardinal Pell didn’t wake up in a prison cell, he woke up in the Carmelite Monastery in Melbourne’s east.

As Noel Debien explains, where the Cardinal resides moving forward will need to be very secure.

“There’s no guaranteeing that he’s safe. You don’t know who is out there,” he told The Quicky.


This morning, 9NEWS captured a child’s tricycle tied to the gates of his current place of residence – in what is believed to be a message of solidarity for victims of child sex abuse.

Pell vandals
The monastery where Pell spent his first night of freedom was vandalised overnight. Image: Nine.

Yesterday, the Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews told reporters: “I make no comment about today’s High Court decision.

“But I have a message for every single victim and survivor of child sex abuse,” he said. “I see you. I hear you. I believe you.”

For the moment, Pell must abide by the strict travel restrictions the rest of us face due to the coronavirus pandemic, but Noel Debien says he "wouldn't be surprised if Rome or America was an option for him."

"It's possible he could stay and live in Australia, and he certainly can be active as a priest in good standing and a bishop in good standing. From the Vatican's point of view they don't have a direct responsibility [to him] but I am sure they are very interested because of his very high stature. He's highly respected among conservative Catholics and he's a very well known figure with international focus," he explained.

— With AAP

Feature Image: Getty.

This article originally appeared in Gemma Bath’s weekly news deep dive email. You can subscribe right here.