Prosecutor slips up in court during George Pell appeal by naming abuse victim

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A senior Crown prosecutor involved in George Pell’s appeal has accidentally named one of the cardinal’s sexual abuse victims in court.

The hearing is being live-streamed but the name was cut before it was broadcast.

Revealing the identity of sex assault victims is banned under Victorian law.

The convicted paedophile cardinal is seeking to be cleared of five child sexual abuse charges on which he was found guilty by a Melbourne jury in December.

The 77-year-old is serving a minimum three years and eight months in prison for abusing two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996 and one of them again in 1997.

One of the boys died in 2014 but the other gave evidence at Pell's trial.

Senior crown prosecutor Chris Boyce QC urged the Court of Appeal to believe the evidence of the man, now in his 30s, above all others.

Evidence from Pell's surviving sexual assault victim was so moving it relieved any doubt the jury had about his reliability or credibility, prosecutors say.

George Pell, who is Australia's highest-ranking Catholic, arrives at Melbourne's Supreme Court of Victoria flanked by police officers on Thursday. The cardinal is appealing his sexual abuse convictions.
Cardinal George Pell (left with police officers) arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria in Melbourne on Thursday for his appeal of his sexual abuse convictions. Source: AAP

Defence labelled victim a ‘calculated liar’

Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Appeal Court President Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg are hearing the case.

They questioned Mr Boyce about why they should prefer the prosecution case over that of Pell's trial barrister Robert Richter QC, who claimed the complainant was a calculated liar or deluded fantasist.

Mr Boyce said the answer was found in watching the man's evidence from start to finish.

After hearing the man's responses, "one puts down one's pen and stares blankly at the screen and is moved", Mr Boyce said.

"And at that point any doubt that one might have had about the account ... is relieved."

He said if the man was a liar or fantasist it would have been "easy" for him to invent the location as one being out of sight, rather than identifying it in the middle of the priest's sacristy, in view of the door.

The Catholic cardinal, who is pictured here in handcuffs, is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing two boys.
Pell is appealing his conviction for sexually abusing two boys in the 1990s listed for the Court of Appeal. Source: AAP

They also quizzed him on the defence argument that if the abuse really occurred, the two boys would have discussed it between them afterwards.

Mr Boyce struggled with a response, accepting an answer from one of the judges at one point, before suggesting the surviving boy might have been afraid of losing his scholarship.

"It's embarrassing though. It's so incredibly embarrassing – do you really want to talk to your friend about it?" Mr Boyce eventually responded.

The prosecutor appeared flustered at times, particularly after slipping up and naming the victim in the hearing.

Offence logistically impossible, says defence

Mr Boyce urged the judges to find that man's evidence more reliable than other prosecution witnesses who said they were with Pell.

Pell's appeal barrister Bret Walker SC has argued the jury's verdicts were "unsafe and unsatisfactory" because prosecution witnesses had given exculpatory evidence, including an alibi that Pell's practice was to greet parishioners after mass when the offending was said to have occurred.

"If (Pell) was at the western door, then the law of physics tells us this is literally, logically impossible for the offending to have occurred according to the complainant's account, and there is no other account," Mr Walker said.

The hearing is expected to finish on Thursday.

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