“ABC Journalist challenged on Pell book in committal hearing” & related articles

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 The World Today

ABC News      Australia

27 March 2018

By Samantha Donovan on The World Today

At George Pell‘s committal hearing in Melbourne, ABC journalist Louise Milligan is being challenged on the contents of her book on the Cardinal, and her reporting of the allegations against him.

Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges of historical sexual offences involving multiple complainants.

He continues to strenuously deny all the charges.

Pell case: Award-winning ABC journalist trades blows with top QC

The Age

27 March 2018 — 6:50pm

Award-winning ABC journalist Louise Milligan has gone head-to-head in court with Cardinal George Pell’s barrister Robert Richter, QC, who accused her of not conducting proper checks before reporting on his client’s alleged offences.

During a heated five-hour exchange, the high-profile lawyer accused the journalist of omitting facts, twisting the truth and failing to do her due diligence, which led Milligan to say that victims were often “torn apart by people like you”.

ABC journalist Louise Milligan arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

ABC journalist Louise Milligan arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Photo: AAP

Cardinal Pell, 76, faces multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants, which he has vehemently and repeatedly denied.

He is facing a committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court to determine whether he stands trial.

Before a packed court on Tuesday, Mr Richter accused Milligan of “distorting” a story about Cardinal Pell by omitting information to “poison the public’s mind” about the high-ranking Catholic.

“What you did was try and reconcile things by omitting things that would damage credibility of [the complainant],” Mr Richter said. “You distorted what went to out to the public … to poison the public’s mind.”

Milligan responded: “I completely and utterly reject that.”

Throughout the intense cross-examination, Cardinal Pell sat in a chair next to his lawyers and wrote notes, rarely lifting his head to look at Milligan.

But he looked up from his notepad to stare intently at Milligan as she was questioned about whether she wrote her book, The Rise and Fall of George Pell, in a way that suggested alleged victims were to be believed.

Robert Richter, QC, arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Robert Richter, QC, arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Photo: AAP

“Did you suggest that they were to be believed?” Mr Richter asked.

“I thought they were believable,” she responded.

The chairs of the court room behind Cardinal Pell were filled mostly by survivors of clergy sexual abuse, including high-profile victim’s advocate Chrissie Foster, whose two daughters were abused by a Catholic priest as children.

Some who had made the journey to observe the hearing were turned away at the door on Tuesday after being told the courtroom was at capacity. They sat in chairs outside.

The court has previously heard that one of Cardinal Pell’s accusers gave police differing evidence in his statement to the information he conveyed to Milligan during an interview on the ABC’s 7.30.

The discrepancies related to the nature of alleged sexual offending and the placement of the cardinal’s hand during an alleged sexual assault, the court heard.

Milligan told the court she was aware there were differences between the evidence the alleged victim provided to her and police, and she questioned the accuser about it before the 7.30 interview and prior to writing her book about Cardinal Pell.

She told the court: “I asked [the alleged victim] about it because I was being a diligent journalist … I remember talking about it immediately afterwards to my manager.”

Milligan said the alleged victim told her he was being truthful in his statements to her and that he had difficulty recalling the exact placement of the cardinal’s hands because it happened so long ago.

Ms Milligan said she had dedicated an entire chapter of her book to the issue of credibility.

“They had a disadvantage and they could be torn apart by people like you,” Ms Milligan told Mr Richter.

The lawyer responded: “You don’t think that people facing allegations after 40 years also have a disadvantage because they need to look for witnesses that might be dead?”

Milligan argued the ABC had been transparent about the alleged victim’s criminal history and his “very chequered past” including a history of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse.

In her book, Milligan interviewed multiple alleged victims, their family members and other witnesses who are central to the historical sexual assault charges levelled at Cardinal Pell.

Milligan handed over research notes for the book and background material used to prepare TV reports for the national broadcaster to Cardinal Pell’s lawyers in January, as they prepared his defence.

Her book was pulled from shelves in Victoria after Cardinal Pell was charged last June.

Mr Richter accused Milligan of publishing her book in May, instead of June, to beat the imminent laying of charges against Cardinal Pell.

“Your book was a prejudgment of guilt,” he said. “This was your stab at getting an award for great investigative work. The most serious of the allegations … were not investigated by you.”

“That is completely untrue,” Ms Milligan responded.

The hearing continues.

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Pell’s lawyer accuses journalist of ‘poisoning the public’s mind’

The Sydney Morning Herald

27 March 2018 — 1:46pm

An investigative journalist with the ABC has been accused of “distorting” a story about Cardinal George Pell by omitting information to “poison the public’s mind” about the high-ranking Catholic.

Cardinal Pell, 76, faces multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants, which he has vehemently and repeatedly denied.

He is facing a committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court to determine whether he stands trial.

On Tuesday, ABC journalist Louise Milligan was questioned by Cardinal Pell’s high-profile defence barrister Robert Richter, QC, who accused her of not conducting proper checks for a story about his client’s alleged offences that aired on the 7.30 program.

ABC journalist Louise Milligan arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

ABC journalist Louise Milligan arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Photo: AAP

Mr Richter accused Ms Milligan of “distorting” the story she presented to “poison the public’s mind” by deliberately omitting information about one of the cardinal’s alleged victims.

The court has previously heard that one of Cardinal Pell’s accusers had given police differing evidence in his statement to the information he conveyed to Ms Milligan during a televised interview.

The discrepancies related to the nature of alleged sexual offending and the placement of the cardinal’s hand during an alleged sexual assault, the court heard.

Ms Milligan told the court she was aware there were differences between the evidence the alleged victim provided to her and police and she questioned the accuser about it before the televised interview and prior to writing her book The Rise and Fall of George Pell.

She told the court: “I asked [the alleged victim] about it because I was being a diligent journalist … I remember talking about it immediately afterwards to my manager.”

Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

Photo: AAP

Ms Milligan said the alleged victim told her he was being truthful in his evidence to her and that he had difficulty in recalling the exact placement of the cardinal’s hands because it happened so long ago.

“What you did was try and reconcile things by omitting things that would damage the credibility of [the complainant],” Mr Richter said. “You distorted what went to out to the public … to poison the public’s mind.”

Ms Milligan responded: “I completely and utterly reject that.”

She argued the ABC had been transparent about the alleged victim’s criminal history and his “very chequered past” including a history of mental health issues, drug and alcohol abuse.

Mr Richter also questioned Ms Milligan over whether on alleged victim was ‘‘off his face’’ when he was interviewed by her.

‘‘I don’t recall him saying he was having a meltdown, he was under great duress and he was having a lot of difficulty,’’ Ms Milligan said.

Mr Richter moved to question Ms Milligan’s credibility as a journalist suggesting she had set out with a vendetta against Cardinal Pell.

But she rejected the suggestion, telling the court she did not initially believe Cardinal Pell was an abuser and began researching the story from a ‘‘sceptical view’’. Ms Milligan repeatedly said she stood by the integrity of her work.

She told the court the decision to run the story on the ABC in 2016 was made after lengthy consultation with her superiors and the national broadcaster’s lawyers.

‘‘They too were aware of every single word said by [the alleged victim] and they too made the decision to run the story as it was,’’ she said.

In her book, Ms Milligan interviewed multiple alleged victims, their family members and other witnesses who are central to the sexual assault charges levelled at Cardinal Pell.

Ms Milligan handed over research notes for the book and background material used to prepare TV reports for the national broadcaster to Cardinal Pell’s lawyers in January, as they prepared his defence to historical sexual assault allegations.

Her book was pulled from sale in Victoria after Cardinal Pell was charged and before the start of the committal hearing.

Throughout the cross-examination, Cardinal Pell sat in a chair next to his lawyers and wrote notes, rarely lifting his head to look at Ms Milligan.

The seats of the court room behind Cardinal Pell were filled mostly by survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse and their supporters, as well as journalists.

The hearing, before magistrate Belinda Wallington, continues.

1 Response to “ABC Journalist challenged on Pell book in committal hearing” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    It looks/sounds as though Louise Milligan held her own on the stand. I am surprised to see that only one of the above reports (The Guardian) mentioned the fact that Milligan told Richter that victims are “torn apart ” by people like Richter because the victim’s history of drugs, alcohol and crime – “the trajectory of children abused” – is used to discredit them. Sadly that is so very and disturbingly true.

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