News National No move on Pell award until after potential court challenge

No move on Pell award until after potential court challenge

george pell drone prison
George Pell when he was in custody in Melbourne. Photo: AAP
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• Cardinal George Pell was released from prison on April 7, 2020 after the High Court quashed his five convictions for child sexual abuse.

Governor-General David Hurley will not act on stripping convicted paedophile George Pell’s Order of Australia award until after a potential High Court challenge is resolved.

The Prime Minister confirmed on Wednesday that it is likely authorities will revoke Pell’s honour after his conviction was upheld on appeal by a 2-1 margin.

“My understanding is that this would result in the stripping of the honours that are decided externally to the government. That is a process that is done independently, and that course will now follow,” Mr Morrison said.

However, the Prime Minister’s office has subsequently confirmed to The New Daily that he was speaking prior to confirmation that Pell intends to take the matter to the High Court.

It is the Prime Minister’s office’s understanding that formally stripping him of the AC must wait until all avenues of appeal have been exhausted.

In 2015, Pell was made a Companion of the Order of Australia – the highest category – for “service to the Catholic church in Australia and internationally, to raising debate on matters of an ethical and spiritual nature, to education and to social justice”.

While previous reports suggested that the Prime Minister will need to personally write to the Governor-General, it was also not clear that Mr Morrison will choose to do so given that the authority that administers the awards system is well aware of the controversy.

Mr Morrison said his thoughts were with all victims of child sex abuse and the trauma that they have experienced.

“Events like this today bring it all back and I would urge Australians who find themselves re-living these experiences to reach out to those around them, to reach out to the services that are there,” Mr Morrison said.

“These things can take you back a long way and so that’s where my sympathies are. The courts have done their job. They’ve rendered their verdict. That is the system of justice in this country and that must be respected.

The decision to strip Pell of his AO reflects the protocol applied to another famous convicted child abuser, Rolf Harris, who lost his awards after his own conviction in 2015.

Governor-General David Hurley confirmed Pell’s honour would not be terminated until his legal case has run its course.

“Appointments to the Order of Australia may be terminated and one of the grounds is conviction for a crime or offence under a law of the Commonwealth, state or territory,” the Governor-General said.

“Once all legal proceedings have run their course, the Council for the Order of Australia may make a recommendation to me as Chancellor of the Order, which I will act on.”

A petition by writer and activist Amy Gray has gathered more than 215,000 signatures calling for Pell’s honours to be stripped now that the appeal process is complete.