Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on sexual abuse charges

Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on sexual abuse charges

Australian magistrate Belinda Wallington ruled today that there was enough evidence to proceed with a trial against George Pell, 76, Australia’s most senior Catholic and treasurer for the Vatican.

He was given a large police guard as he entered the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in front of dozens of media representatives and members of the public.

The BBC reports that Pell formally pleaded not guilty to historic abuse charges. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

His lawyer, Robert Richter QC, argued that the most “vile” allegations against his client had been dismissed.

Pell, who is considered the Church’s third-ranked official, took a leave of absence from the Vatican last year to fight the charges in his home country.

Most of the evidence given remains confidential.

Last June, police in the state of Victoria charged the senior cleric with what they described as historical charges involving “multiple complainants”.

More than 30 witnesses testified during a preliminary court hearing, known as a committal, that ran for four weeks from March. Many sessions were closed to the public, which is standard practice in Victoria in sexual offence cases.

In open hearings, the court heard that an alleged incident took place at a Melbourne cathedral in the 1990s when the cleric was archbishop of Melbourne.

Another allegation related to a swimming pool in the city of Ballarat in the 1970s, when Cardinal Pell was a local priest, the court heard.

The cleric has consistently denied all accusations, saying last year:

I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me.

Richter told a previous hearing that the allegations were “impossible”, describing the complainants as “unreliable”. He argued that Cardinal Pell had been targeted by accusers because of his role as Australia’s most senior Catholic figure, and that his client had fully co-operated with police.

Magistrate Wallington said about half of the charges had sufficient evidence to be warrant a trial.

An allegation that Cardinal Pell committed a sexual assault in a Ballarat cinema during a screening of Close Encounters of The Third Kind was among the charges that were dismissed.

In explaining that decision, Magistrate Wallington cited inconsistencies between the evidence of the accused and other witnesses, as well as timelines of when the film was screening. She said:

The evidence as a whole is not a sufficient weight for a jury to convict.

Pell’s trial will be held before a judge and a 12-person jury in the County Court of Victoria.

The court will hold an administrative hearing on Wednesday, but the trial is not expected to begin for several months.

Commenting on today’s hearing, the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, said he had:

Confidence in the judicial system in Australia and said that justice must now take its course.

Hat tip: AgentCormac and BarrieJohn

• The picture used to illustrate this report was taken at an earlier court appearance on March 5.

11 responses to “Cardinal George Pell to stand trial on sexual abuse charges”

  1. AgentCormac says:

    About bloody time, too.

  2. Broga says:

    Why did he return to Australia? He could have stayed in Rome, explained that he was wrongly accused and lived in some style attended by the usual troop of nuns etc. Others have legged it for Rome and stayed there in comfort. The Vatican also has its own court which administers what it calls justice.

  3. Cali Ron says:

    Sadly, no sentence could subject him to the pain and suffering of those abused under his watch and by his hand. I hope he’s convicted and given a very long sentence so he can reflect on his crimes and how he, like so many of his peers betrayed his congregation. It’s time for the Catholics of the world to wake up to the lies and hypocrisy of the church.

  4. H3r3tic says:

    @Broga – clearly Tim Minchin has had an effect on him. 🙂

  5. Broga says:

    H3r3tic : Thanks. That explains it. He may be in Australia for a long time.

  6. Barry Duke says:

    Broga, this should amuse you.

  7. Broga says:

    Barry: You hit the target with that. Thanks. I must quote this little excerpt. Not to be missed:

    “Speaking today from his Minnesota dental practice, Palmer said it’s like a weight has been lifted off his chest.

    “I mean, all I did was shoot a lion with a crossbow? This guy is protecting child abusers from the law. I’m fucking David Attenborough compared to this guy,” he said.

    “Being the Time magazine Coward of the Year is a big responsibility, which I think Pell is going to embrace,”

    “Good luck to him, but not really.”

    I assume Pell found the responsibility too much, buckled under the strain, and returned to Australia to stand trial. The trial will be of special interest for many reasons.

  8. RussellW says:


    The possibility that Pell, or any accused priest, would voluntarily return from the safety of the Vatican seemed remote to me as well.

  9. Robster says:

    Local TV morning show, “Sunrise”this morning reported that “only three percent of sexual misconduct cases result in a conviction” in the state of Victoria. Confidence in the crook cardinal getting his (alleged) just deserts, vanishing.

  10. Broga says:

    RussellW: Same here. Get ready for Pell to beat the rap. Follow the money. Something is going on.

  11. RussellW says:


    If I wasn’t so prejudiced against the RCC, I’d give his Oiliness some credit for facing justice. But I am so I won’t.
    You might be correct, only time will tell.