Cardinal George Pell at the County Court in Melbourne, Australia, in 2019. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty Images

George Pell, the former Vatican treasurer, has won his appeal and had his child sexual abuse convictions overturned by Australia's highest court.

Why it matters: The Australian cardinal was the highest-ranking Catholic Church official to go to trial and be convicted for sex abuse. The High Court's unanimous ruling means he can be immediately released from prison, where he was serving a six-year sentence.

The big picture: A jury found Pell guilty in 2018 of abusing two choirboys in the late 1990s. He had been in prison since March last year and lost an appeal in a lower court in Melbourne last year. Pell has always maintained his innocence.

What they're saying: "The High Court found that the jury, acting rationally on the whole of the evidence, ought to have entertained a doubt as to the applicant's guilt with respect to each of the offences for which he was convicted," the full bench of seven judges stated in their judgment, issued on Tuesday morning local time.

  • The judges found that with respect to each of Pell's convictions there was "a significant possibility that an innocent person has been convicted because the evidence did not establish guilt to the requisite standard of proof."

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details throughout.

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