Cardinal George Pell has been released from Barwon Prison after the High Court today sensationally overturned his child sexual abuse convictions.
The court in Brisbane ordered the immediate release of Pell, who had previously been found guilty after a gruelling two-year legal battle.
In a 60-second ruling the High Court said it believed there was “a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted” as “evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof”.
Pell was sentenced to six years in prison in March last year, but will go free after only serving 13 months.
It is unknown where he was taken after his release.
It was a morning of mixed emotions for both supporters of the accused and his alleged victims.
Pell released a statement this morning saying: “I have maintained my innocence while suffering from a serious injustice. I look forward to reading the judgement and reasons for the decision in detail.”
He went on to thank all those who had supported him and been there for him throughout the trial.
Victims groups said they were ‘absolutely appalled’ by the decision.
Cathy Kezelman, the president of the Blue Knot Foundation Centre of Trauma, issued a statement saying: “Many survivors will be crushed by this decision.
“The child sexual abuse pandemic within the Catholic Church has threatened the safety of millions of children, the adults they become and the very moral fibre of what it means to be human.”
Child sexual abuse victims have been on a rollercoaster ride during this case and many will be feeling aggrieved by today’s decision.
Child sex survivor Michael Advocate said despite the fact he was devastated by the verdict, for him it was enough knowing that “someone who has been so highly ranked in the church had spent 405 days in prison”.
Victoria Police also issued a statement in response to the ruling stating: “We respect the decision of the High Court in this matter and continue to provide support to those complainants involved.”