Cardinal George Pell faces court over historical sex offences

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The Herald Sun (Australia)

July 26, 2017 3:51am

CARDINAL George Pell has pledged to fight every charge in a sex crimes case that could run into 2019.

Amid scenes of chaos, the 76-year-old fronted Melbourne Magistrates’ Court for the first time on Wednesday since returning from the Vatican.

His lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, said: “For the avoidance of doubt, and because of the interest, might I indicate Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all the charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has.”

The hearing made history. Cardinal Pell is the most senior Catholic official to face court on sex offence charges.

Cardinal Pell is surrounded by police and media as he leaves court. AAP Image/Joe Castro
Cardinal Pell was swamped by the crowd as he left court. Picture: Mark Stewart
It took Cardinal Pell nearly as long to walk back to his office as his hearing took. AAP Image/James Ross

Prosecutors told the court that the brief of evidence against the cardinal could be served next week.

But experts warn the case could run for two years, owing to the complexities of hearing historical sex charges and a potential application for separate trials on different allegations.

Details of the charges are yet to be revealed, and Wednesday’s minutes-long administrative hearing shed no further light on the allegations.

Despite that, international interest in the case was huge: media representatives flew in from across the globe.

The cardinal, who was not required to enter a plea, had been under no obligation to attend Wednesday’s hearing.

But he arrived at court shortly after 8.30am, and went through security checks.

Dozens of media from all over the world attended today’s hearing. AAP Image/James Ross
Cardinal George Pell is surrounded by police and media as he arrives back at his lawyer’s office. AAP Image/Joe Castro
Cardinal Pell is flanked by police as he arrives at court. Picture: Mark Stewart
Every vantage point was taken. AAP Image/Joe Castro
Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court. Picture: David Caird

In the courtroom, Cardinal Pell simply stared straight ahead for about 15 minutes as he awaited the magistrate, other than for a brief conversation with his lawyers about why a video feed was being beamed to a nearby court.

Court authorities had decided to open the extra room and show the hearing live, owing to the numbers who had turned up to witness it.

Some had arrived at court as early as 4am to ensure they had a seat in the courtroom.

As a result of that interest, magistrate Duncan Reynolds read a prepared statement outlining the hearing’s purely administrative nature.

Senior prosecutor Andrew Tinney, SC, also read a statement, stressing the need for “fair and accurate reporting”.

Prosecutors have until September 8 to prepare a brief of evidence. But Mr Tinney said it was likely the brief would be served by next week.

A committal mention date has been set for October 6.

After the hearing, Cardinal Pell was mobbed during the 100m walk to his lawyer’s offices. A dozen police formed a shield to protect him, amid a barrage of shouted questions and abuse, and yells of support.

One lady held a sign that read, “Thank you for helping my family”.

At one point police had to stop traffic on Lonsdale St.

Cardinal Pell leaves court after the brief hearing. AAP Image/Stefan Postles
Cardinal Pell is escorted by police as he walks up the stairs to his lawyer’s office. AAP Image/Stefan Postles
Police form a shield around the entrance to Cardinal Pell’s lawyers office after the hearing. AAP Image/Joe Castro
Police helped shepherd Cardinal Pell through the huge media scrum. AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Since the Herald Sun first revealed in February 2016 that Cardinal Pell was under investigation, he has persistently and vehemently denied any wrongdoing.

Last month, on being charged, he immediately took a leave of absence from his post as Vatican finance chief.

“I’m innocent of these charges. They are false. The whole idea of sex offences is abhorrent to me,” he said that day.

“News of these charges strengthens my resolve, and court proceedings now offer me an opportunity, to clear my name and then return to my work in Rome.

“I am looking forward ­finally to having my day in court,” he said.

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4 Responses to Cardinal George Pell faces court over historical sex offences

  1. Sylvia says:

    Unbelievable! Just look at the crowds. Media, police and interested citizens.

  2. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Cardinal Pell must be having his steaks delivered by “the light of the silvery moon”. Not a peep about what he’s up to, since his “Hollywood” appearance 2 weeks ago.
    Maybe he’s over at the swimming pool? Mike.

  3. Rachael O'Reilly says:

    Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Abuse of Children has made a considerable number of recommendations. One of which relates to the Roman Catholic Church and its ‘Sacrament of Reconciliation’ aka ‘Confession’ Its advice is that where sexual abuse is confessed by perpetrator or confessed by victim the confessor is compelled to report to the first responding agencies.

    I attach a link. It is from the British publication ‘The Guardian’. It reports that the Archbishop of Melbourne, Most Rev. Denis Hart is, at best. most reluctant to support the Commissions recommendations on this matter.

    It is outrageous of this man to even challenge such a recommendation. Secrecy is the essence of this crime and characters like Hart have been heavily implicated. The Church in Australia is not above the law and Hart has constantly refused to accept the new reality.

    In the light of the Barcelona terror attacks we may also need to redefine what exactly we mean by terror and in particular that of used phrase ‘domestic terror’. Could a case be made for the Roman Catholic Church in certain countries to be considered a ‘domestic terror’ threat in the light of the decades if not centuries long attack upon the citizens children under the guise of the Gospel?

    Just a thought for consideration

  4. Mike Fitzgerald says:

    Interesting thought Rachel. “The church in Australia is not above the law” is s true, BUT the church will NEVER accept this recommendation. Within the church ranks, Canon Law just about always trumps civil law. In a lot of cases, it has been the church’s “safety net”.
    Secrecy is of absolute importance within the church’s dealings, and appears will continue to be so. Mike.

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