March 12 (UPI) -- Australia's High Court on Thursday delayed making a decision whether to grant Catholic Cardinal George Pell leave to appeal his 2018 convictions on child sex abuse charges until they have received additional written arguments from attorneys on both sides.
Pell, 78, a former adviser to Pope Francis, was sentenced to six years in prison on five counts related to sexual abuse of two choirboys in the 1990s while he served as Archbishop of Melbourne.
The judges told both sides to submit additional arguments in two business days before deciding whether to grant special leave. After making that decision, the court can then move forward with his request to acquit or uphold the conviction.
Pell's legal team wants the court to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld his conviction. They say the original verdict was invalid on the grounds that the judges had wrongly put the responsibility on him to prove his innocence.
Defense attorneys also criticized how much weight was given to one victim's testimony, and other legal errors.
Questions have circled around the testimony of Monsignor Charles Portelli, who testified to Pell's practice of greeting parishioners after Mass on the steps of St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne, but could not recall specifics about the day of the offenses. Defense attorneys have said Pell was greeting parishioners on the steps when the reported abuses occurred.
Authorities are holding Pell in the maximum-security Barwon Prison, near Geelong in Victoria. He was moved there in January after a drone attempted to photograph him at a different facility in Melbourne.
Judges Thursday did not give a date when they would return a decision.