“50 witnesses to be called in Cardinal George Pell hearing” & related articles

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The Australian                                                 The Weekend

The Australian



Victorian Editor

At least 50 witnesses are set to be called for a landmark committal hearing for historic sexual offence charges for Australia’s most senior Catholic next March.

Cardinal George Pell faced Melbourne Magistrates Court yesterday, with his legal team flagging that allegations of an offence or offences at a cathedral were “impossible’’.

The court heard Cardinal Pell’s legal team would reject that any ­offending had occurred at St Patrick’s Cathedral, although it was not specified whether this was in St Patrick’s in Melbourne or Ballarat.

Although Cardinal Pell has yet to enter a plea, his barrister Robert Richter QC informed the court at an earlier hearing that his client would be pleading not guilty to all charges.

Mr Richter said yesterday he intended to question witnesses ­regarding charges relating to St Patrick’s Cathedral and demonstrate that the offences could not have occurred. “We propose to demonstrate to Your Honour that what was alleged was impossible,” Mr Richter said.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said some of the witnesses Mr Richter sought to question didn’t seem to say much in their statements.

But Mr Richter said it was ­important that the defence counsel be allowed to cross-examine witnesses, including choirboys from the cathedral, as it was unknown what questions were asked when witness statements were actually prepared.

“We do not know what memory was probed at the time these statements were taken,” he said.

Ms Wallington also questioned the cross-examination of some witnesses who were young at the time of the alleged offending.

The full details of what has been alleged against Cardinal Pell have not been revealed by the court.

Yesterday’s hearing lasted only 20 minutes and was dominated by argument over witnesses and timing of subsequent hearings. Cardinal Pell arrived flanked by a large contingent of police but the ­appearance lacked the security concerns of those in July when international interest in the charges prompted media-led chaos when he arrived and left the court.

Cardinal Pell yesterday arrived and left by the court’s front door and walked from Mr Richter’s chambers about 100m from the court building.

Mr Richter said the supposition didn’t hold that witnesses’ memories of events wouldn’t be deeper if probed as part of the court process.

He said evidence regarding the probability or improbability of something happening was important and the court also heard that an analyst who prepared a chronology of Cardinal Pell’s career might be called as a witness.

Ms Wallington disallowed five witnesses, leaving at least 50 to be called over the four-week committal, which has been set for March.

Mr Richter said Cardinal Pell’s counsel were still waiting for a “voluminous” amount of materials to be delivered by the prosecution and sought an undertaking it could be accomplished by Christmas.

Ms Wallington, who is the supervising magistrate of the ­sexual assault portfolio, stood the matter down for a further mention on a date to be fixed.

Cardinal Pell is charged with historic sex offences relating to multiple complainants and multiple offences.

The cardinal was the world’s third-most senior Catholic as the Vatican’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy when he was charged in June. He stood down from the position with the ambition of returning to Rome if he were cleared of wrongdoing.

He is living in Sydney during the court proceedings and commuting to Melbourne for each hearing.

When The Australian broke the news that Cardinal Pell would be charged with sex offences he stridently rejected any wrongdoing and declared that he was looking forward “to having my day in court”.

“I am innocent of these charges,” he said. “They are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is ­abhorrent to me.”


Pressure drops as empty seats greet Cardinal George Pell’s latest day in court

The Sydney Morning Herald

Tony Wright

The steam had begun to escape from this Melbourne courtroom sensation.

Less than three months ago George Pell, Prince of the Catholic Church, had barely been able to make his way up the street and through the doors of the Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Who is Cardinal George Pell?

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic priest, faces historical sexual abuse charges.

Crowds had roiled around him, cameras were shoved in his face, invective was thrown at him from one side, cheers from the other and placards were hoisted.

On Friday, he slipped through security without barely a hitch on the way in, no more than an occasional voice from the street following him.

A dozen police officers had been assigned, along with protective service agents, to shepherd him out when this hearing was over, but most of them were not strictly needed.

Most of those in the crowd outside were from the news media, and they knew the rules.

Cardinal George Pell, of course, is never going to be just another defendant.

The Wall Street Journal was there along with all the expected Australian media outlets. But there was no Times of London or New York, nor CNN or BBC as there had been in July.

And when Magistrate Belinda Wallington took the bench to hear argument about the admissibility of evidence when the case against Cardinal Pell is finally tested next year, there were more than a dozen seats empty in the public gallery.George Pell arrives to his lawyer office.George Pell arrives to his lawyer office. Photo: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

Cardinal Pell himself, the great stooped figure familiar to Australians of all stripes, sat behind his barrister, Robert Richter, looking straight ahead, wearing the simple black suit and reversed collar of a mere priest.

A supporter or two reached over to shake his hand. A woman to his right maintained a chatter, smiling cheerily until the court came to order, as if willing the cardinal to keep his spirits up.A dozen police officers had been assigned to shepherd the cardinal out of court.A dozen police officers had been assigned to shepherd the cardinal out of court. Photo: AAP

There was a period of legal argument as Mr Richter used his persuasive powers to press the case for the evidence of various future witnesses to be admitted.

The magistrate, having sought a couple of times to seek the view of prosecutor Fran Dalziel, eventually ruled that 50 witnesses would be allowed, but the testimony of five others would not.

At issue, it became clear, would be the reliability of memories.

This is a case about a number of historical sexual offences, all of which Pell declares himself not guilty of.

Her Honour Magistrate Wallington set a date for the committal hearing. March 5, 2018. And, she allowed, it would take four weeks. There will be, clearly, a lot of testing of memories.

Twenty minutes after it began, the appearance was over. Cardinal Pell shuffled away.

Outside the courtroom, the dozen police officers waited to form a cordon that, this time, was not entirely necessary.

Within minutes, Cardinal Pell was another figure shuffling along a city street, albeit one trailed by a comet of cameras.

The steam had begun to dissipate; the substance yet to be revealed.


Up to 50 witnesses could be called for Cardinal George Pell’s committal hearing

The Sydney Morning Herald

06 October 2017

Adam Cooper

Tom Cowie

Up to 50 witnesses could be called and a “voluminous” amount of evidence discussed when Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic official, faces a committal hearing next year on charges of historical sex abuse.

Cardinal Pell, 76, who has vigorously denied all allegations of sexual abuse, returned to Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday for a 20-minute administrative hearing.

Who is Cardinal George Pell?

Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic priest, faces historical sexual abuse charges.

The court was told 50 witnesses could be called at a four-week committal hearing – which will determine whether he stands trial – which is due to start on March 5.

Some witnesses will be former choirboys and are to be cross-examined over what allegedly happened in St Patrick’s Cathedral.

In legal discussion, the cardinal’s high-profile defence barrister Robert Richter, QC, said the prosecution case comprised “an awful lot of witnesses”, and said the amount of evidence was “voluminous”.

Cardinal Pell was charged in June with historical sexual offences involving multiple complainants. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed.Mr Richter said he hoped to prove that “what was alleged was impossible”.

“We need to explore whether it could have happened … whether it didn’t happen,” he said.Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday morning.Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday morning. Photo: Paul Jeffers

Magistrate Belinda Wallington gave the defence team permission to cross-examine most witnesses but ruled out a further five.

“We are dealing with historical events and memories are not static,” she said.George Pell arrives at his barrister's chambers in Melbourne ahead of his court hearing on Friday.George Pell arrives at his barrister’s chambers in Melbourne ahead of his court hearing on FridayPhoto: Joe Armao, Fairfax Media.

“I tend to think it’s appropriate for witnesses’ memories to be explored.”

Parts of what was discussed in court cannot be reported for legal reasons.Brian Cherrie outside Melbourne Magistrates Court holding signs, ahead of Cardinal Pell's hearing.Brian Cherrie outside Melbourne Magistrates Court holding signs, ahead of Cardinal Pell’s hearingPhoto: Pat Mitchell, 3AW

Mr Richter said much of his cross-examination would be “short and to the point”.

The case is set to return to court next month for more discussions on the number of witnesses and what they will be questioned about.Police help George Pell through the 100-strong crush of national and international media in July.Police help George Pell through the 100-strong crush of national and international media in JulyPhoto: Justin McManus

Cardinal Pell slowly walked the 100 metres from his lawyer’s offices to the court shortly before 9am, surrounded by dozens of cameras and reporters.

A protester outside screamed abuse at him as he made his way up Lonsdale Street to the court entrance.

The cardinal and his legal team were flanked by six police officers as they walked to court. One lane of Lonsdale Street was blocked off to provide space for the media pack as it spilled onto the road.

Cardinal Pell did not have to walk through the metal detectors as others attending court do, but had to pass his belongings through the security scanner.

Before the hearing began he chatted quietly with two women, one seated either side of him.

Media gathered outside the court from before dawn to secure a seat inside.

Victim advocacy representatives were also outside, some holding signs.

“It doesn’t matter how high up the tree you are, it doesn’t matter how much access to money you have, no one is above the law,” Brian Cherrie said.

Friday’s turnout was more low-key than Cardinal Pell’s first court appearance on July 26 when a 100-strong group of national and international media swarmed the cardinal outside court.

Unlike the previous hearing, there were empty seats in the courtroom on Friday.

Once the hearing was over, the cardinal made the slow walk back to his lawyer’s offices, again flanked by police.

As he left, a woman screamed at him and then words were exchanged between one of the cardinal’s supporters and several victims advocates.

At his first appearance, Mr Richter told the packed court his client would plead not guilty, although he is only required to formally enter a plea if committed to trial.

The cardinal, who is understood to be the most senior Catholic official to ever face charges of sexual offences, has taken leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to be in Australia to fight the charges.

With AAP

4 Responses to “50 witnesses to be called in Cardinal George Pell hearing” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    Please pay pray for the complainants. Those of you who have been through or in attendance at a criminal sexual abuse trial or preliminary hearing know the lengths/depths to which many a defence lawyer will go/descend to attain a ‘not guilty’ verdict, or stay: in essence, ‘the end justifies the means.’

    A reminder too that Cardinal Pell retained a high end defence lawyer known in Australia as “the Rolls Royce of criminal defence lawyers.” He did not earn that reputation by losing cases.

    Those complainants need your our, from now until 5 March 2018 when the four week committal hearing begins (I believe the Australian committal gearing is the equivalent of our preliminary hearing – occasion for the prosecution to convince the judge that there is sufficient evidence to proceed to trial).

  2. Larry Green says:

    No matter what the outcome, just as in the case of every convicted clerical child rapist, he will forever remain in the eyes of his worshipers and many of his brother priests, a great saint and innocent victim of liars and lowlife looking to get rich!

  3. Sylvia says:

    Good to hear from you again Larry 🙂

  4. Larry Green says:

    Hope all is well with you Sylvia. Your commitment, dedication and perseverance to struggle for justice in this cause is truly amazing!

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