George Pell appeal over child sex conviction set for two days in June
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George Pell appeal over child sex conviction set for two days in June

George Pell faces spending more than three months in jail before he can appeal against his conviction for sexually abusing two choirboys.

June 5 and 6 have been set down as the days the disgraced cardinal can challenge his conviction in the state's highest court. The appeal, likely to be heard by three judges, will be heard days before Pell's 78th birthday.

George Pell on his way into court last week

George Pell on his way into court last weekCredit:Justin McManus

Pell, 77, is in jail and will be sentenced next Wednesday after he was last year found guilty of orally raping one boy and molesting the other in St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne in December 1996. He also sexually assaulted one of the boys early the following year.

The Court of Appeal will hear Pell's application for leave to appeal and, if it grants that first hurdle, the appeal itself. It could be weeks later that the Court of Appeal judges return to announce whether Pell's challenge is successful.

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Sydney silk and appeal expert Bret Walker, SC, will spearhead Pell's appeal after Robert Richter, QC, confirmed on Tuesday he would not be directly involved, partly because he was too emotionally involved in the case and angry at the guilty verdict.

Mr Richter said he did not have “sufficient objectivity at this stage” to participate in the appeal. “I am very angry about the verdict,” he said, “because it was perverse.”

However, Mr Richter has denied he "quit" the legal team, and said if need be, he was available to be consulted.

Mr Richter said Pell, who has been convicted of five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys in 1996 and 1997, would be “better served by someone more detached”.

“I think the man is an innocent man and he’s been convicted. It’s not a common experience,” he said.

A County Court jury in December found Pell guilty of one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of committing an indecent act, with or in the presence of a child under 16. Those verdicts came in a retrial, after a first jury was discharged after it was unable to reach a verdict.

Pell, who was the Archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s, attacked the choirboys after he found them in a room in the cathedral after Sunday mass.

He also sexually assaulted one of the boys early in 1997 when he shoved him into a wall and squeezed his genitals, also after Sunday mass.

Chief judge Peter Kidd remanded Pell in cusody after a pre-sentence hearing last week. Pell will be sentenced next Wednesday.

Each of the offences carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

Adam Cooper joined The Age in 2011 after a decade with AAP, the country's news service. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.

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