Pell to stand trial on sex offences

Tuesday, 01 May, 2018

Robert Richter QC argued to have all charges thrown out, submitting the allegations against Cardinal Pell are "impossible" the product of "fantasy, mental health problems or pure invention". He entered a plea of not guilty after Wallington delivered her ruling on the committal hearing.

Cardinal Pell, aged 76, who denies all the charges, is now Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy for the Vatican, although he has been on leave since last summer. Another accuser says he was sexually assaulted at Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral in the 1990s, at which stage the accused was the Archbishop of Melbourne.

Robert Richter, the cardinal's lawyer, said previous year there was "voluminous" evidence to prove that "what was alleged is impossible".

Several other charges against the 76-year-old were struck out.

Ms Wallington, an experienced judicial officer who is Victoria's supervising magistrate for sexual offences, sat through a four-week committal featuring more than 30 witnesses, including complainants.

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His alleged victims testified in the first two weeks of the preliminary hearing via a video link from a remote location to a room closed to the media and public. Their evidence remains confidential. His attorney, Richter, said the allegations were an attempt to destroy the cardinal's reputation.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington said she was "satisfied" that there was enough evidence in one case against Pell to go to trial.

But lead prosecutor Mark Gibson, SC, submitted that while there were conflicts in some of the evidence, the differences were questions for a jury, and that the accusers had never wavered in their allegations against Cardinal Pell. Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court hearings.

Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, released a statement declining to make any comment about the Magistrate's decision to commit Pell to face trial, adding that justice must now take its course. However it is not common for this power to be used. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.