Media and Communications Office
Cardinal George Pell arrived at Melbourne’s Magistrates Court this morning for a committal hearing, accompanied by dozens of police officers. He will be appearing in court every day for the hearing’s four-week duration.
At the close of the hearing, Magistrate Belinda Wallington will decide whether there’s enough evidence for the cardinal to stand trial for historic sexual offenses.
Over the course of the next four weeks, multiple complainants will testify, and around 50 people are expected to give evidence. Details of the allegations have not yet been made public.
During the first two weeks, complainants will give evidence via video link from a remote witness facility. Witnesses and accusers will be cross-examined by Cardinal Pell’s criminal defence barrister Robert Richter QC, who is well known for his lengthy and forensic questioning of witnesses. During the cross-examination, the court will be closed to the public and media.
On Friday last week, prosecutors dropped one of the charges following the death of one of the accusers.
The first complainant accusing Pell of sexual abuse contacted police in 2015 during extensive media coverage of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
At this time, the cardinal’s defence team is not required to enter a formal plea, but during the Vatican treasurer’s first court appearance last July his barrister declared that Pell will plead not guilty to all charges.
Cardinal Pell, 76, is Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric. He stepped aside from his role as Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in Rome when the police Sano taskforce charged him with multiple allegations of historic sexual abuse in June last year. As Secretariat, Cardinal Pell was the third most senior-ranked Catholic official in the Vatican, and is the most senior Catholic to be involved in a prosecution of this nature.
Before moving to Rome in 2014, Cardinal Pell had previously served as Archbishop of Melbourne and Archbishop of Sydney.