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Cardinal George Pell targeted to punish Catholic church, defence lawyer says Cardinal George Pell targeted to punish Catholic church, defence lawyer says
(35 minutes later)
Cardinal George Pell has been targeted with historic sexual abuse allegations in an attempt to punish the Catholic church for its failure to prevent other instances of child sexual abuse, his lawyer has argued.Cardinal George Pell has been targeted with historic sexual abuse allegations in an attempt to punish the Catholic church for its failure to prevent other instances of child sexual abuse, his lawyer has argued.
Pell, 76, has been charged with multiple historic sexual offences. He has vehemently denied the charges. Pell, 76, has been charged with multiple historic sexual offences. He has vehemently denied the charges. Further description of the charges against Pell cannot be given for legal reasons.
On the final day of a four-week committal hearing at the Melbourne magistrates’ court on Tuesday, the head of Pell’s defence team, Robert Richter QC, suggested the most serious complaints against him had been invented by “thwarted” people to punish the church.On the final day of a four-week committal hearing at the Melbourne magistrates’ court on Tuesday, the head of Pell’s defence team, Robert Richter QC, suggested the most serious complaints against him had been invented by “thwarted” people to punish the church.
Both the defence and the prosecution have made extensive written submissions but also oral closing statements. Pell was not required to attend and was not in court.Both the defence and the prosecution have made extensive written submissions but also oral closing statements. Pell was not required to attend and was not in court.
Richter said it was unclear “whether the allegations are the product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may have been having, or just some invention in attempt to punish the representative of the Catholic church in this country for not stopping other abuse that has occurred”.Richter said it was unclear “whether the allegations are the product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may have been having, or just some invention in attempt to punish the representative of the Catholic church in this country for not stopping other abuse that has occurred”.
Richter said everyone in Australia knew Pell had been “the face” of the Catholic church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse occurring within its institutions, and the barrister suggested that had made Pell a target.Richter said everyone in Australia knew Pell had been “the face” of the Catholic church’s response to allegations of sexual abuse occurring within its institutions, and the barrister suggested that had made Pell a target.
“We say that Cardinal Pell representing the Catholic church … had been the obvious target of such allegations,” Richter said, adding that the charges were “not true”.“We say that Cardinal Pell representing the Catholic church … had been the obvious target of such allegations,” Richter said, adding that the charges were “not true”.
He also argued reporting by journalist Louise Milligan, which included a story on the ABC’s 7.30 in 2016 and a book published in 2017, “created the kind of public furore and public moment” that triggered complainants to come forward. Richter argued Milligan herself was “out for fame and fortune”.He also argued reporting by journalist Louise Milligan, which included a story on the ABC’s 7.30 in 2016 and a book published in 2017, “created the kind of public furore and public moment” that triggered complainants to come forward. Richter argued Milligan herself was “out for fame and fortune”.
Richter attacked the credibility of the complainants, saying inconsistencies around matters such as the dates of alleged incidents mean they are “not to be believed”, and said the allegations as described ranged from “trifling” to “improbable, if not impossible”.Richter attacked the credibility of the complainants, saying inconsistencies around matters such as the dates of alleged incidents mean they are “not to be believed”, and said the allegations as described ranged from “trifling” to “improbable, if not impossible”.
He said the matter should not be committed to trial because the evidence was not “of sufficient weight to support a conviction”.He said the matter should not be committed to trial because the evidence was not “of sufficient weight to support a conviction”.
Magistrate Belinda Wallington said the reliability or otherwise of complainants and witnesses was a matter to be determined by a jury at trial, except where a committal hearing has shown that their credibility is “annihilated”.Magistrate Belinda Wallington said the reliability or otherwise of complainants and witnesses was a matter to be determined by a jury at trial, except where a committal hearing has shown that their credibility is “annihilated”.
Richter replied: “Or close enough to annihilation to say that it would be a waste of public time, effort and money to put the man on trial.”Richter replied: “Or close enough to annihilation to say that it would be a waste of public time, effort and money to put the man on trial.”
He suggested the allegations against Pell were not properly investigated because of a “politically correct” change that meant statements from people making allegations of sexual assault were taken “as gospel”.He suggested the allegations against Pell were not properly investigated because of a “politically correct” change that meant statements from people making allegations of sexual assault were taken “as gospel”.
“It should be difficult,” Richter said. “People talk about how people get acquitted, too many people get acquitted. What we say is that it should be difficult to destroy and lock up a citizen unless it has been investigated and there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”“It should be difficult,” Richter said. “People talk about how people get acquitted, too many people get acquitted. What we say is that it should be difficult to destroy and lock up a citizen unless it has been investigated and there is sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt.”
Wallington said she was aware there had been an “overcorrection” by British police in response to decades of disbelieving complainants against entertainer and sex offender Jimmy Savile, but said she has not “seen anything in our state to indicate that that’s the position that has been taken”.Wallington said she was aware there had been an “overcorrection” by British police in response to decades of disbelieving complainants against entertainer and sex offender Jimmy Savile, but said she has not “seen anything in our state to indicate that that’s the position that has been taken”.
She said Richter was taking some arguments “too far”, including musings on legislative changes around the prosecution of sexual assault allegations and an argument that Pell should be taken to be innocent because he did not claim diplomatic immunity to remain in the Vatican rather than returning to face charges.She said Richter was taking some arguments “too far”, including musings on legislative changes around the prosecution of sexual assault allegations and an argument that Pell should be taken to be innocent because he did not claim diplomatic immunity to remain in the Vatican rather than returning to face charges.
Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said “nothing ... that has been put by the defence amounts to a defect in the evidence”.Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said “nothing ... that has been put by the defence amounts to a defect in the evidence”.
Gibson said Richter’s suggestion that complainants were motivated by a need to seek revenge against the Catholic church was “nothing more than a theory” that had been rejected by at least one complainant and should be ignored by the magistrate. He said the complainants had not resiled from their statements.Gibson said Richter’s suggestion that complainants were motivated by a need to seek revenge against the Catholic church was “nothing more than a theory” that had been rejected by at least one complainant and should be ignored by the magistrate. He said the complainants had not resiled from their statements.
Wallington said she would hand down her decision on whether to commit the matter to trial on 1 May.Wallington said she would hand down her decision on whether to commit the matter to trial on 1 May.
George PellGeorge Pell
CatholicismCatholicism
ChristianityChristianity
MelbourneMelbourne
VictoriaVictoria
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