Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria for day two.
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Supreme Court of Victoria for day two.

Pell courtroom falls silent after disastrous blunder

The name of George Pell's sexual assault victim has narrowly avoided being broadcast to the world after a disastrous court slip up.

Pell is back in court today for the second day as his continues his appeal to overturn his convictions on five assault charges against two choirboys at St Patrick's cathedral in the 1990s.

The hearing is being streamed live via the Supreme Court's website.

The identity of Pell's two victims have been a tightly kept secret because of strict Victorian laws that ban revealing the identity of sexual assault victims.

But in a horror slip-up prosecutor Chris Boyce, QC, this morning inadvertently named the complainant.

The court fell silent as the appellate judges looked for assurance from a video operator that a 15-second stream delay stopped the name being broadcast widely.

Chief Justice Anne Ferguson said she was assured that the name had not gone to air.

It did little to calm a visibly shaken Mr Boyce who took moments to recompose himself, and did so only after significant encouragement and reassurance from the bench.

 

He opened his argument much stronger this morning, jumping to his feet almost before Pell had taken his seat in court.

Mr Boyce started with little fanfare, but immediately jumped to defend the integrity of the complainant who has come under attack from Pell's legal team.

He said the man was a compelling witness, who was truthful and factual.

Court of Appeal president Justice Chris Maxwell said the court would have to consider submissions that the man was a liar and a fantasist.

The entirety of the man's evidence, which was given in private, was given in a closed court and has never been made public.

Mr Boyce described the testimony as moving.

Earlier today the Catholic priest was driven in a van into the grounds of the Supreme Court to continue his bid for freedom.

The Court of Appeal heard from Pell's defence team yesterday which is trying to get the 77-year-old acquitted of five charges.

He's serving a minimum three years and eight months behind bars after being sentenced to up to six years in prison in March.

Barrister Bret Walker SC told the court in the first day of the appeal application and hearing that it was "impossible" for Pell to have abused the boys at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996, and have molested one of them again in early 1997.

The jury's verdicts were "unsafe and unsatisfactory" on the basis of evidence from one surviving complainant in the face of exculpatory evidence from 20 others called by prosecutors, he said.

George Pell grounds of appeal graphic
George Pell grounds of appeal graphic

Among the evidence was an alibi in Pell's practice of greeting parishioners outside the cathedral after mass, he told Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Ferguson, Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell and Justice Mark Weinberg, who are hearing the case.

"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.

Pell appeared in court in person, once again wearing his clerical collar. He wore an open shirt when sentenced.

Prosecutors Chris Boyce QC and Mark Gibson QC will put their arguments to the judges today.

In written submissions they say Pell's legal team "rather overstates in practical terms the number of planets that were required to align" for the offending to have occurred.

They said it was only required that Pell spend limited time greeting people after mass, that the boys were able to leave the choir processions and that all three were able to be undisturbed in the sacristy after mass.

"The events described by various witnesses ... established that there was more than ample opportunity and circumstances for the offending, described by the complainant, to have occurred," their submissions say.

The hearing continues.