Cardinal George Pell’s committal hearing at Melbourne Magistrates Court has opened to the public.
Cardinal George Pell’s defence lawyer has accused a victim support group volunteer of making up allegations and trying to “pin” historical sex offences onto Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic.
Pell faces multiple historical sex offence charges involving multiple complainants, and is fighting the charges at a committal hearing in Melbourne Magistrates Court.
The pre-trial hearing, which will determine if Pell stands trial, opened to the public on Wednesday afternoon after several days of closed court evidence from the complainants, as required by law.
A retired academic and volunteer researcher with victim advocacy group Broken Rites said he was contacted by a complainant’s mother in late 2014.
“I had an email from her,” Bernard Barrett told the court.
Defence barrister Robert Richter QC said Mr Barrett and Broken Rites “make up accusations about the hierarchy of the Catholic Church covering up sexual abuse”.
“You advocate publicly and you rile publicly against the Catholic Church in particular,” he said.
“You make up representations on the website and elsewhere accusing the church of covering up sexual abuse, is that right?”
“We don’t ‘rile’ or make up accusations, we just state the facts,” Mr Barrett responded.
The defence barrister also suggested Mr Barrett’s volunteer work with Broken Rites involved “trying to pin” something on Pell.
“Would you have considered it a considerable victory if you could pin something on Cardinal Pell as doing something wrong?” Mr Richter said.
The barrister also expressed frustration at many of the answers Mr Barrett gave during cross-examination.
“Do you know what it means to answer a question when asked, rather than advocate from the pulpit yourself?” Mr Richter said.
At one point Mr Richter asked magistrate Belinda Wallington to intervene as he tried to question Mr Barrett about whether he had taken notes about what the complainant told him.
“Would you mind disciplining the witness, Your Honour. I would like to finish but he’s not making it possible,” Mr Richter said.
The father of a complainant who died from a drug overdose in 2014 also gave evidence via video link on Wednesday before the hearing was adjourned.
As many as 50 people, including the complainants, will be called as witnesses during the month-long hearing, which began on March 5.
Pell was charged on summons in June 2017 while he was in Rome and took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to return to Australia to face court.
He was supported in court by a friend and Katrina Lee, executive advisor for the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
Australian Associated Press
George Pell’s barrister accuses witness of trying to ‘big-note’ himself
Bernard Barrett, from Broken Rites organisation, was first to give evidence when hearing reopened to public
Wed 14 Mar 2018 06.53 GMT
A retired academic linked to an abuse research organisation has been accused of trying to “big-note” himself by offering to go to police on behalf of an alleged victim making historical sexual offence allegations against Cardinal George Pell.
The committal hearing for Pell, who is Australia’s most senior Catholic, was reopened to the public and media on Wednesday afternoon in Melbourne’s magistrate’s court after almost eight days of closed evidence from complainants.
Bernard Barrett assists the abuse research organisation Broken Rites, which documents historical cases of child sexual abuse and advises victims of their options, and he was first to give evidence once the court reopened.
The barrister representing Pell, Robert Richter QC, said when a complainant came to Barrett with an allegation against Pell, Barrett suggested he be the one go to police in his capacity with Broken Rites.
Richter told Barrett: “You wanted to big-note yourself with police didn’t you, because you suggested to him [the alleged victim] it might be better if you were to get the attention of the [police] taskforce.”
Barrett responded that Richter was “wrong, wrong, wrong” and that he offered to call police on the alleged victim’s behalf in order to ensure he got through to the right officer. Magistrate Belinda Wallington intervened, saying that whether Barrett was trying to big-note himself or not was irrelevant to the hearing.
In a heated exchange, Barrett was pressed by Richter about notes he kept about abuse cases in his role with Broken Rites. Barrett said he did not always take notes when alleged victims came to him.
“I suggest you keep notes and you suppressed them,” Richter said, which Barrett denied.
He also asked Barrett: “Would you have considered it a considerable victory if you could pin something on Cardinal Pell as doing something wrong?”
Barrett responded: “Not really.”
Richter asked Barrett whether he and Broken Rites believed the high authorities of the Catholic church were covering up abuse.
“That’s what the church admits,” Barrett said. “That’s our research. We weren’t making accusations. We just state the facts.”
Richter asked: “Has it been your position for many years?”
When Barrett responded: “That’s what the church admits,” Richter retorted: “Are you capable of listening to a question and answering it?” He also accused Barrett of evading questions.
The committal hearing began on 5 March but was closed to the media and the public while the complainants gave evidence and were cross-examined, which is not unusual in cases involving historical sexual offence allegations. The rest of the hearing is expected to remain open and continue for another two and a half weeks.
Pell, 76, has repeatedly and vehemently denied the offences he is charged with. He does not need to enter a formal plea unless committed by Wallington to stand trial. He has taken leave from his position as financial controller of the Vatican in Rome while the hearing takes place.
The committal hearing continues.
George Pell’s lawyer has claimed that Broken Rites, a support group for sex abuse victims, was first to raise the name Pell with one of the cardinal’s accusers, before a report was made to police.
Not long after the door to court 22 at Melbourne Magistrates Court was opened to the public after six days of evidence behind closed doors, defence counsel Robert Richter, QC, suggested it was a Broken Rites volunteer who gave the name Pell to a complainant. The volunteer had discussed an allegation of a historic sexual offence with the accuser in 2015.
But retired academic Bernard Barrett,who has worked for the support group for 25 years, told the court it was the accuser who first raised Cardinal Pell’s name, not him.
As Mr Richter questioned Dr Barrett, the defence lawyer told magistrate Belinda Wallington: “We are suggesting he [Dr Barrett] provided the name Pell [to the complainant].”
Mr Richter said Dr Barrett’s 2015 statement to police did not contain the cardinal’s name in reference to the conversations the researcher had with the accuser.
But Dr Barrett said the accuser mentioned Cardinal Pell by name when the pair discussed the allegation. Dr Barrett rejected Mr Richter’s suggestion that it would be a “feather in the cap” if the researcher could go to the police with Cardinal Pell’s name.
“Did you mention Pell’s name [to police]?” Mr Richter asked.
“Emphatically no,” Dr Barrett replied.
“Why didn’t you?”
“It’s a matter for the victim.”
Dr Barrett spoke with the accuser’s mother in 2014, the court heard, over allegations her son made against a priest who died in 2002. Dr Barrett and the accuser then spoke about the allegations involving Cardinal Pell six months later.
In email correspondence read to the court by Mr Richter, Dr Barrett advised the accuser and his mother to apply for compensation from the church, and even if the accuser didn’t need the money he could “donate it to The Lost Dogs’ Home”.
The cardinal, 76, faces multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed.
He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The first week and a half of the hearing that determines whether he stands trial was closed to the public and media while the alleged victims gave evidence, in keeping with standard practice in Victorian courts hearing sex offence cases.
When the court was opened on Wednesday afternoon, Cardinal Pell sat to the side of his lawyers and took notes, with two support people – a friend and a Church official – either side of him, as Mr Richter urged Dr Barrett to answer his questions directly.
At one point the lawyer asked the magistrate to “discipline” the witness. Ms Wallington then asked Dr Barrett to answer the questions.
Also on Wednesday, the father of another accuser said he only learned of his son’s allegations against Cardinal Pell in 2015, the year after his son died from an accidental heroin overdose.
The father said he was shocked when told of his son’s allegations and had never suspected anything untoward occurred.
“I am very aware of that sort of thing … and I never saw or it was never hinted that there was something going on,” the father said.
The father said his son never disclosed the allegations to him or the reason why he began using heroin. He said he learnt about his son’s allegations against Cardinal Pell from the police.
“He made a comment he certainly liked doing [the drug], enjoyed doing it and it was nobody’s fault he was doing it,” he said.
The hearing continues.
Father had no reason to suspect son had been sexually offended against, committal told
ABC News Australia
14 March 2018
Photo: The court closed while Cardinal Pell’s complainants gave evidence. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)
One of Cardinal George Pell’s alleged victims died of a heroin overdose and his father never suspected he had been sexually offended against, a Melbourne court has been told.
The man’s father was one of the first to give evidence at Cardinal Pell’s committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court after it reopened to the public and the media.
Since the hearing began last week, it has been closed to allow the complainants to give their evidence, which is standard practice in Victoria for cases involving sexual offence charges.
Cardinal Pell is fighting historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complaints. No other details can be reported for legal reasons.
The father of one of his alleged victims told the hearing he had no idea his son was allegedly sexually offended against until the police came to take a statement from him a year after his son’s death.
“At no time did he ever tell me that, and we had quite a few discussions,” he said.
“I am very aware of that sort of thing … I’ve always kept an eye on it and I never saw, or it never hinted, that something was going on.”
Giving evidence via video link, the man said he was shocked when detectives approached him because he had several discussions with his son about how and why he began experimenting with drugs.
“He made the comment that he certainly liked doing it, he enjoyed doing it and it was nobody’s fault that he was doing it,” he said.
The man died of a heroin overdose in 2014, the court heard.
Broken Rites official questioned
Cardinal Pell took notes throughout Wednesday’s hearing and was supported by a friend, Catholic Church official Katrina Lee.
Bernard Barrett of victim support group Broken Rites was cross-examined about his discussions with one of the alleged victims before the complainant contacted Victoria Police’s Sano Taskforce to make a statement.
Dr Barrett told the hearing the man’s mother had first contacted him to report that her son had been the victim of separate alleged sexual offending, but six months later claimed that he had also been offended against by Cardinal Pell.
“He’s feeling quite desperate and confused and would like to speak to you,” the court heard she wrote in an email.
But Cardinal Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, said that if the man had named Cardinal Pell, Dr Barrett would have made a note of it and included it in the police statement he made in 2015 which does not name the cardinal.
“We are suggesting that he provided the name Pell to [the complainant] in their discussions,” he said.
In a heated exchange, Mr Richter asked Dr Barrett if he would “consider it a considerable victory” if he could “pin something” on Cardinal Pell.
Dr Barrett replied “not really” and said it was not his concern.
He said he never suggested Cardinal Pell’s name and did not include it in his police statement because it was up to alleged victims to make a complaint.
For the past 10 days a security guard had been stationed by the door to court room 22 at the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court to ensure no one but Cardinal Pell, his support person, legal team, prosecutors and a magistrate made it inside.
Over five days, multiple complainants gave their evidence via video link before being cross-examined by Mr Richter.
It is expected up to 50 witnesses will have given evidence when the committal hearing concludes.
If Magistrate Belinda Wallington sends the case to trial, Cardinal Pell will be required to enter a plea to the charges.
The hearing is expected to remain open for the rest of the committal hearing which is set down for another fortnight.
Cardinal’s alleged abuse victims end testimony in Australia
680 News (Toronto)
Posted Mar 14, 2018 10:02 am EDT
Last Updated Mar 14, 2018 at 10:42 am EDT
MELBOURNE, Australia – The alleged victims of the most senior Vatican official charged in the Catholic Church sex abuse crisis finished testifying to an Australian court Wednesday.
A hearing began last week in the Melbourne Magistrate Court to determine whether prosecutors have sufficient evidence to put Australian Cardinal George Pell on trial.
Pope Francis’ former finance minister was charged in June with sexually abusing multiple people in his Australian home state of Victoria. The details of the allegations against the 76-year-old cardinal have yet to be released to the public, though police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offences — meaning the events are alleged to have occurred decades ago.
The courtroom had been closed to the public and media while alleged victims testified by a video link from an undisclosed location but was reopened Wednesday afternoon after the final alleged victim gave evidence.
The first witness to testify in open court was Bernard Barrett, a volunteer researcher for Broken Rites, an advocacy group for victims of clergy abuse.
Barrett told the court he received an email from an alleged victim’s mother in late 2014.
Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, accused Barrett and Broken Rites of making up allegations and trying to “pin” offences on Australia’s highest-ranked Catholic.
“You advocate publicly and you rile publicly against the Catholic Church in particular,” Richter said.
“You make up representations on the website and elsewhere accusing the church of covering up sexual abuse, is that right?” Richter added.
Barrett replied, “We don’t rile or make up accusations, we just state the facts.”
The father of an alleged victim who died from a drug overdose in 2014 also gave evidence via video on Wednesday before the hearing was adjourned.
The father cannot be identified.
The committal hearing is scheduled to take up to a month. Pell has said he will plead not guilty if Magistrate Belinda Wallington rules that prosecutors have a strong enough case to warrant a jury trial.
The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory. For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he promised a “zero tolerance” policy for sex abuse in the church.
Advocates for abuse victims have long railed against Francis’ decision to appoint Pell to the high-ranking position in the first place. When Pell was promoted to the Vatican in 2014, he was already facing allegations that he had mishandled cases of clergy abuse during his time as archbishop of Melbourne and, later, Sydney.
After years of alleged coverups and silence from the church over its pedophilia scandal, abuse survivors and their advocates have hailed the prosecution of Pell as a monumental shift in the way society is responding to the crisis.
So far, Francis has withheld judgment of Pell, saying he wants to wait for Australian justice to run its course. And he did not force the cardinal to resign. Pell said he intends to continue his work as a prefect of the church’s economy ministry once the case is resolved.
This story has been corrected to show the advocacy group’s name is Broken Rites, not Broken Rights.