Victoria's Director of Public Prosecutions has urged the High Court to refuse Ballarat cardinal George Pell's bid to appeal his conviction for multiple child sex offences, warning it should be reluctant to override a jury verdict with its own judgments.
Victoria's Office of Public Prosecutions on Tuesday confirmed they had filed a summary of their argument in response to a special leave application from Pell, lodged last month.
Pell, 78, was found guilty by a jury of the rape of a 13-year-old choirboy and sexual assault of another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, but Australia's most senior Catholic has always denied any wrongdoing.
Kerri Judd, QC, told the High Court there was no error in the Victorian Court of Appeal's majority decision to uphold Pell's conviction and the Cardinal's legal team had failed to raise any important question of law in his application for special leave to appeal.
Mr Judd said that Court of Appeal Justice Mark Weinberg's dissenting view that Pell had been wrongly convicted was not grounds, on its own, for the High Court to grant an appeal.
"The mere fact that Weinberg JA has taken a different view of the evidence to the majority does not justify intervention by the High Court,'' the DPP argues in documents lodged on Tuesday with the High Court.
"The [special leave to appeal] identifies no error in the majority approach and no question of law for this court to resolve; it does no more than ask this court to substitute for the view taken by the majority and the jury a different view of the evidence."
Quoting from the majority Court of Appeal decision by Chief Justice Anne Ferguson and Court of Appeal President Chris Maxwell, Ms Judd urged the High Court to be "slow to substitute its own judgments about human behaviour for those made by a jury".
Pell's 12-page application to the High Court - the first step in his final bid for freedom - included that consenting judges overseeing his previous appeal erred in their finding.
His lawyers say a mistake occurred because Pell was required to prove the offending was impossible, rather than leaving that onus to prosecutors.
Secondly, they argue the judges erred in not finding the jury's verdicts unreasonable, claiming there was reasonable doubt about whether opportunity existed for the crimes to have occurred.
They also claim that changes in law over the decades since the crimes occurred make it more difficult to test sex assault allegations.They argue Pell should be acquitted of all charges for a number of reasons including inconsistencies in the complainant's version of events.
Pell was convicted by a Victorian County Court jury in December last year of one charge of rape and four charges of an indecent act with a child.
He was sentenced to six years' jail and is not eligible for parole until late 2022.
The charges arose from allegations first made to police in 2015 by a former choirboy who said that Pell raped him and sexually assaulted his friend nearly 20 years earlier inside the priests' sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral when the boys were 13.
The Crown in its response to Pell's application for special leave also rejects the Cardinal's submission that justices Ferguson and Maxwell, in their consideration of the exculpatory evidence, in effect reversed the onus of proof and forced Pell to prove his innocence.
The next step in Pell's appeal process is likely to be a brief hearing and the question of special leave to appeal.
If leave is granted, a substantive hearing will be scheduled next year.
With The Age/AAP