Cardinal Pell sent to trial on sex charges

Glen Norman
May 1, 2018

Cardinal Pell returned to Australia previous year to face the allegations, having been granted a leave of absence by the Pope from his role as Vatican treasurer.

But the magistrate ruled the evidence of the other accusers was credible enough to be believed by a jury, that there was no evidence they had colluded in what they told police, and that their allegations were not contaminated by media reports, most notably a television interview on the ABC's 7.30 program.

Cardinal Pell formally pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday.

Since Pell returned to Australia from the Vatican in July, he has lived in Sydney and flown to Melbourne for his court docket hearings.

Tuesday's committal comes after a four-week-long hearing to determine whether the allegations against Pell would go to trial in the County Court.

When allegations of historical sexual abuse by Cardinal Pell first came to light in 2016 the Pope stressed that "we must avoid a media verdict based on gossip".

Numerous most serious allegations were dismissed in the Melbourne magistrates' court on Tuesday, with witnesses described as unreliable and lacking credibility.

In delivering her ruling, Wallington dismissed some of the charges levelled against Pell in the pre-trial hearing and has not specified which ones will proceed, nor has she provided detail on the date of the trial. Pell was surrounded by police as he was quickly ushered into the court just before 9.30am, and was met by a small crowd of supporters and opponents. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

Defence barrister Robert Richter QC argued Pell had been targeted as Australia's most senior Catholic amid hatred and public furore over the church's response to clergy abuse.

After Ms Wallington left the bench, a group of people at the back of the court room clapped.

"It is hard to see how a jury can convict on the evidence of a man who said he can't recall what he said a minute ago". "The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me".

Pell's case has coincided with an Australian national inquiry into child sexual abuse, ordered in 2012 after a decade of pressure to investigate widespread allegations of institutional paedophilia. Prior to his appointment to the Vatican, he was the archbishop of Sydney for more than 10 years.

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