“Pell lawyer asks magistrate to step down, she tells him to stop shouting” & related articles

Share Button

The Age

28 March 2018 — 12:35pm

Cardinal George Pell’s lawyer has made an extraordinary request for the magistrate overseeing the hearing into allegations of historical sexual assault against the cardinal to disqualify herself from the matter, claiming she has a “biased view” of the evidence.

Robert Richter, QC, one of Australia‘s top defence barristers, accused magistrate Belinda Wallington of favouring the prosecution after interrupting his line of questioning, and he requested that she “disqualify herself” from the committal hearing.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at court on Wednesday.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at court on Wednesday.

Photo: AAP

The request was refused by Ms Wallington, who also asked Mr Richter to stop shouting during the heated exchange.

The request followed a debate between the two over evidence submitted by a cinema projectionist last week.

Mr Richter was cross-examining Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan about his knowledge of sexual assault allegations said to have occurred at a Ballarat cinema in the late 1970s, and he requested the police officer verify those allegations.

Mr Sheridan, who oversaw the past two years of a lengthy investigation by Victoria Police into multiple complainants alleging sexual assault against the cardinal, has been called to give evidence in a hearing to determine whether Cardinal Pell stands trial.

Details of the charges are yet to be revealed. Cardinal Pell has repeatedly denied the allegations.

The line of questioning led Ms Wallington to intervene and argue there were aspects of the questioning that would be impossible for Mr Sheridan to answer.

Robert Richter, QC, arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court this month.

Robert Richter, QC, arrives at Melbourne Magistrates Court this month.

Photo: AAP

The court was told last week that one of Cardinal Pell’s alleged victims has accused the cardinal of abusing him during a screening of Close Encounters of the Third Kind during the late 1970s.

Mr Richter accused Ms Wallington of not accepting evidence last week from a witness who said the film was screened between September and October in 1978.

The court earlier heard that lawyers for Cardinal Pell requested the police statements of complainants making allegations of historical sexual assault against the cardinal before he was interviewed by police.

Mr Sheridan, who flew to Rome to interview Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic in 2016, told the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday this request was not met because it was not “normal procedure” to hand over such documents when police were investigating serious allegations of sexual assault.

Mr Richter told the court the summary of allegations against the cardinal was “very, very short on detail” and lawyers had made the request to construct a timeline of events to ensure Cardinal Pell was at the places he is accused of being when he allegedly assaulted complainants.

Mr Richter accused Victoria Police of setting up a “get Pell” operation more than a year before a formal complaint was made.

He said police actively looked for a crime, when no crimes had been reported, and “single-mindedly” pursued Cardinal Pell under Operation Tethering, which began in 2013.

“Operation Tethering, that wasn’t a ‘get Pell’ operation was it?” Mr Richter asked.

Mr Sheridan told the court it was not uncommon for an investigation to take lengthy periods of time while police pursued all avenues.

“An inquiry can lay dormant for two years,” he said.

Mr Sheridan told the court the operation was an “intel probe” to see whether there were unreported serious crimes.

The hearing continues.

_____________________________________

Pell’s lawyer accuses magistrate of being biased

The Courier    (Ballarat)

March 28 2018 – 3:00PM

Robert Richter QC, for Cardinal George leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court

Robert Richter QC, for Cardinal George leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court

Cardinal George Pell’s legal team has accused a magistrate of bias and questioned whether a police investigation into allegations he committed historical sexual offences was a “get Pell operation”.

They have also accused detectives of tunnel vision and being determined to charge Australia’s most senior Catholic despite evidence that might show the alleged offences didn’t happen.

Victoria Police began Operation Tethering in March 2013, targeting Pell, now 76.

Barrister Robert Richter QC told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday that Tethering started as an operation looking for a crime when no crimes had been reported.

Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan said it was an “intel probe” to see whether there were unreported serious crimes.

Cardinal George Pell arrives to the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne.

Cardinal George Pell arrives to the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne.

“Operation Tethering, that wasn’t a ‘get Pell’ operation was it?” Mr Richter asked.

Supt Sheridan responded: “I guess you could term it the way you did but I wouldn’t term it that way”.

Mr Richter also accused other police officers of “single-mindedly pursuing Pell”.

“If they’re tunnel-visioned and determined to proceed to charges, they wouldn’t turn their minds to the sort of questions that might show that it didn’t happen,” Mr Richter said.

Supt Sheridan said he did not accept that.

Mr Richter also queried why police didn’t ask witnesses obvious questions to corroborate information linked to an alleged sex offence at a church.

“It would be horrible if they decided not to pursue an obvious line of questioning because he was afraid that the answer might destroy his case,” he said

“I’d agree with that,” Supt Sheridan replied.

The barrister then suggested “bombshells” from another complainant were impossible given the timeline of events.

During a legal argument with magistrate Belinda Wallington, Mr Richter accused her of bias.

“I apply that your honour disqualify herself from further hearing this matter on the basis of a biased view of the evidence,” he said.

“Your application is refused,” she replied.

Pell denies the charges and is facing a committal hearing to determine if he stands trial on multiple charges.

Australian Associated Press

______________________________________________

George Pell committal: Police accused of ‘single-mindedly’ pursuing charges, court told

ABC News      Australia

28 March 2018

Cardinal George Pell walks into the Melbourne Magistrates' Court. Photo: Cardinal Pell was being pursued by police, the court was told. (AAP: Luis Ascui)

Detectives have been accused of “single-mindedly” pursuing charges against Cardinal George Pell as a Melbourne court heard Victoria Police set up a taskforce to investigate Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric before receiving a complaint against him.

Details about the police probe, Operation Tethering, were revealed in court for the first time today as one of the detectives who flew to Rome to question the Cardinal gave evidence.

Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan told the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court that the investigation into Cardinal Pell began in March 2013 to ascertain whether he had committed crimes which had gone unreported.

Defence barrister Robert Richter QC told the detective that police had assumed Cardinal Pell had committed serious unreported crimes.

“When Tethering started it was an operation looking for a crime because no crime had been reported,” he said.

Complaints ‘put on the backburner’

Detective Superintendent Sheridan agreed that there was a search for potential complainants and that no-one came forward until more than a year after the police investigation had begun.

Mr Richter asked the detective why investigating officers had put serious allegations made by complainants against a nun and teacher “on the backburner” while instead pursuing relatively “benign” allegations made against Cardinal Pell.

“They are supposed to look at serious sex offences … and they did absolutely nothing about the serious allegations that [two complainants] convey,” he said.

Detective Superintendent Sheridan rejected the assertion, telling the court there could have been a viable explanation.

Police planned to arrest Pell after royal commission

The court was also told police planned to arrest and question Cardinal Pell when he returned to Australia from the Vatican to give evidence at the child abuse royal commission in December 2015.

Mr Richter tendered a police document that detailed plans to arrest his client after he had given evidence to the commission in Melbourne, which never eventuated.

Instead, the Cardinal gave evidence to the commission via video link from Rome in February 2016 after it ruled he was too ill to return to Australia.

Detective Senior Constable David Rae said they had planned to release Cardinal Pell from custody if he denied the allegations or refused to comment and then charge him on summons if they had permission to do so.

The court also heard police sent their brief of evidence against Cardinal Pell to the Director of Public Prosecutions in late 2016, but it was sent back to detectives with a request for additional work to be undertaken.

Mr Richter said there had been a request for officers to interview choir members and personnel at Melbourne’s St Patrick’s Cathedral in relation to one of the allegations.

But he told the court that police only conducted those interviews after laying charges against the Cardinal.

“How could this happen that no relevant enquiries were made with other relevant choir members … before the Cardinal was charged,” he asked.

Detective Senior Constable Rae responded that he was not aware exactly when those interviews took place.

It was also revealed that police discussed stopping the publication of ABC journalist Louise Milligan’s book which details allegations made against Cardinal Pell.

But the book’s publication was brought forward two months.

Magistrate had ‘biased view’

Earlier, Mr Richter made an extraordinary request for Magistrate Belinda Wallington to disqualify herself from the case, accusing her of having a “biased view of the evidence”.

The application was swiftly refused.

It was also revealed that Cardinal Pell had asked for the complainants’ police statements before being interviewed by police in October 2016.

The court heard the request was refused but police did supply a summary of the allegations which included dates and locations.

Mr Richter told the court he had supplied police with a dossier, including statements from church officials, nuns and others, in December 2016.

Detective Superintendent Sheridan said he had later told Mr Richter “we’d prefer to interview witnesses ourselves rather than receiving supplied statements”.

The hearing is expected to conclude on Thursday.

It is expected to be several weeks before Ms Wallington announces her decision on whether there’s enough evidence to commit Cardinal Pell to stand trial.

Cardinal Pell is fighting historical sexual offences involving multiple complainants.

______________________________________________

Police accused of ‘get Pell’ focus

9 News                           (9news.com.au)

Cardinal George Pell’s legal team has accused police of running a “get Pell operation” amid revelations detectives planned to arrest him in late 2015 over historical sexual offence allegations.

Pell’s high-profile barrister Robert Richter QC also accused a magistrate of bias, and criticised the police investigation code named Operation Tethering.

The investigation targeting Australia’s most senior-ranked Catholic began in March 2013 into allegations of “inappropriate behaviour”.

Mr Richter said in Melbourne Magistrates Court on Wednesday that Tethering started as an operation looking for a crime when no crimes had been reported.

Cardinal George Pell in court. Cardinal George Pell in court.

“Operation Tethering, that wasn’t a ‘get Pell’ operation was it?” Mr Richter asked the detective overseeing the investigation.

Detective Superintendent Paul Sheridan said it was an “intel probe” to see whether there were unreported serious crimes.

“I guess you could term it the way you did, but I wouldn’t term it that way,” he told Mr Richter.

The court has been told police wanted to arrest the Vatican treasurer during his planned return to Australia to appear before a royal commission hearing in December 2015.

“What’s being flagged here is he would be arrested for questioning?” Mr Richter asked.

Detective Senior Constable David Rae replied: “He’d be interviewed.”

Mr Richter suggested arresting someone for the purpose of questioning was illegal, but Det Const Rae understood police had a power of arrest.

Pell, 76, did not return to Australia as planned as he was too ill to travel due to a heart condition, and gave evidence to the commission from Rome in early 2016.

He was charged on summons with historical sexual offences involving multiple complainants in June 2017.

Before he was charged, Pell’s legal team tried to persuade police and Victoria’s Director of Public Prosecutions not to take that step.

“While it’s clear that the complainants are for one reason or another ‘damaged’, there would not be any material that pre-dates the cardinal’s obtaining of significant public prominence and points to him as being the person responsible for such damage,” part of the defence submission said.

The court was told the first formal complaints against Pell were made following a royal commission hearing in 2015, when Mr Richter said there was a notion that the cardinal must have known about a group of pedophile clergy and covered it up.

Mr Richter accused detectives of tunnel vision and being determined to charge Pell despite evidence that might show the alleged offences didn’t happen, suggesting some officers were “single-mindedly pursuing Pell”.

During a legal argument with magistrate Belinda Wallington, Mr Richter accused her of bias.

“I apply that your honour disqualify herself from further hearing this matter on the basis of a biased view of the evidence,” he said.

“Your application is refused,” she replied.

Pell, who denies the charges, will face the final day of evidence on Thursday at the hearing that will determine if he stands trial.

__________________________________________

Pell’s barrister accuses magistrate of bias towards prosecutors

Robert Richter QC calls on magistrate to disqualify herself from cardinal’s hearing

The Guardian

Wed 28 Mar 2018

Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 28 March 2018.

Australia’s most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 28 March 2018. Photograph: Daniel Pockett/EPA

Cardinal George Pell’s defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, has accused the magistrate presiding over Pell’s committal hearing of being biased towards prosecutors, calling on her to disqualify herself from the case.

Richter made the application while cross-examining Det Supt Paul Sheridan, who worked with the taskforce established to investigate Pell.

Richter pressed Sheridan about events alleged to have occurred at a movie theatre in 1978, and about efforts police made to verify those allegations, including investigating when the film was screened. Magistrate Belinda Wallington intervened to say she was not convinced the film had screened within the timeframe Richter stated it had, and challenged the line of questioning. She also asked Richter to stop shouting.

Richter, known for his theatrical questioning, responded by calling on Wallington to “disqualify herself from hearing this matter on the basis of a biased view of the evidence”.

Wallington responded: “Your application is refused.” The case continued.

The court also heard that when a police taskforce to investigate Pell was established in March 2013, no allegations against him had been made to police.

Richter put it to Sheridan that the police investigation, named Operation Tethering, “was an operation looking for a crime and a complainant”.

“It was a ‘get Pell’ operation, wasn’t it?” Richter said.

“Despite the police looking for people and asking them to complain, it was basically a complete non-starter and was put on ice, as it were, for some time until there was an allegation, if you can call it that … made in March 2014.”

Sheridan, who was one of the detectives who travelled to Rome in 2016 to interview Pell at the Vatican, responded that Operation Tethering was an “intel process to see if there were unreported serious crimes”.

But he agreed with Richter that no-one came forward to police for one year, and when police approached someone who made a complaint in 2002 that was later dropped, that person did not want to talk to them.

Richter told Sheridan that police had put Pell and his defence team at “forensic disadvantage” by initially presenting them with allegations without telling them the specific date, time and locations the offences were alleged to have occurred.

“That’s problematic for someone who is presumed innocent to get their minds around,” Richter said.

Sheridan responded; “I’d agree that’s a challenge, yes”.

On Wednesday afternoon, Det Senior Constable David Rae was cross-examined by Richter. When asked by Richter about any notes he took the first time he spoke to complainants making allegations against Pell on the phone, Rae responded that it was not his practice to take notes during the initial conversation.

Richter put it to him that not taking notes was a breach of police procedures.

“No, it’s my practice,” Rae replied.

“Your practice then,” Richter replied, “is appalling.”

Rae said the reason he didn’t take notes in the first instance of speaking to them on the phone was because he would “cut them short” and make an appointment with them to get a full and detailed statement.

“Your practice is not to collect an evidentiary trail of what you assert,” Richter said.

“I disagree with that assertion,” Rae replied.

Richter also criticised Rae for not reading psychiatric reports of some of the witnesses.

“Well what do you know about their psychiatric history as to whether or not they are people who make up things?,” Richter asked.

“Nothing,” Rae replied.

“You just took them at their word, yes?” Richter asked.

“On face value I take them at their word,” Rae agreed.

The officers were also accused by Richter of putting more serious allegations of abuse at the hands of nuns and other people on the “back-burner” in order to pursue what he described as “less serious” allegations against Pell.

Pell, who is 76, is the highest-ranking Vatican official to be charged in the Catholic church’s long-running sexual abuse scandal. He has taken leave from the Vatican in Rome to attend court. He has strenuously denied all allegations, which relate to historical sexual offences. Further description of the charges against Pell cannot be given for legal reasons.

When the hearing adjourns on Thursday afternoon, magistrate Belinda Wallington will decide whether there is enough evidence to order Pell to stand trial. Her decision is expected some time in April.

The committal hearing continues.

1 Response to “Pell lawyer asks magistrate to step down, she tells him to stop shouting” & related articles

  1. Sylvia says:

    The latest from the Cardinal Pell preliminary hearing in Australia. Seems the “Rolls Royce” of Australian defence lawyers is playing out the usual defence tactics with great gusto. Since this is a preliminary hearing with just a judge hearing testimony I don’t know that he will achieve right now much aside rehearse his tactics for trial and annoy the judge. We shall see.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *