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.
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.