George Pell Ellis Defence
Lawyers for the Catholic Church could resurrect a legal strategy to defend a civil claim launched by the father of a former choirboy who prosecutors had alleged was sexually abused by George Pell in Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral.Two years on from Pell’s acquittal on criminal charges following a successful appeal to the High Court, lawyers for the church are investigating whether they can use the so-called Ellis defence – the legal strategy Pell backed as Australia’s most senior Catholic to avoid paying large compensation sums to victims of clerical abuse.
The Supreme Court heard on Thursday the church’s lawyers were considering using the controversial defence strategy in the latest court case involving Pell, even though the Victorian government abolished the legal loophole in 2018. Legal sources say it can still be applied in some circumstances.
Pell was in 2018 found guilty by a County Court jury of abusing two teenage choirboys in the cathedral after a Sunday Mass in December 1996. Those convictions were quashed by the High Court in 2020 and Pell was released from prison after more than a year in custody.