Dis­miss Pell charges — lawyer

Geelong Advertiser - - NEWS - SHAN­NON DEERY

FAN­TASY, non­sense, im­pos­si­ble: three words used to­day to sum up the his­tor­i­cal sex­ual of­fences al­le­ga­tions lev­elled at Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell.

His lawyer Robert Richter, QC, spent al­most two hours out­lin­ing his case at the Mel­bourne Mag­is­trates’ Court yes­ter­day, ar­gu­ing to have all charges be­ing faced by his client thrown out of court.

He ar­gued Car­di­nal Pell, Aus­tralia’s high­est ranked Catholic, was the vic­tim of a witch hunt be­cause of his per­ceived fail­ure to sin­gle-hand­edly stop child abuse within the church.

There was a pub­lic ha­tred for him as the face of the Cath- olic Church, and that ha­tred in­creased as he climbed the ranks of the or­gan­i­sa­tion.

Mr Richter spared no one in his take-down of the al­le­ga­tions against the Car­di­nal, slam­ming the po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion, pub­lic­ity around the case and the vic­tims’ ev­i­dence.

Fol­low­ing a month-long com­mit­tal hear­ing, mag­is­trate Belinda Walling­ton must now de­cide whether there is suf­fi­cient ev­i­dence to sup­port a con­vic­tion and if so com­mit the Car­di­nal to stand trial.

Mr Richter, who has filed an 80-page no-case sub­mis­sion with hun­dreds of sub­mis­sion points, told her there wasn’t.

“There has to be a sen­si­ble ap­proach taken at com­mit­tal,” he said.

“This is a sit­u­a­tion in which your hon­our has to weigh up whether there is ev­i­dence of suf­fi­cient weight to sup­port a con­vic­tion and that means ev­i­dence which is ca­pa­ble of be­lief.”

Mr Richter said the com­plainants sim­ply could not be be­lieved.

The Car­di­nal is fac­ing nu­mer­ous charges in re­la­tion to sev­eral vic­tims, but the na­ture and num­ber of charges has not been pub­licly re­vealed.

Mr Richer said the in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Car­di­nal Pell, that started with­out a com­plaint, was lack­ing, with po­lice au­to­mat­i­cally be­liev­ing the claims of vic­tims, in­clud­ing one from a psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal, with­out prop­erly in­ves­ti­gat­ing their ac­counts.

“It should be dif­fi­cult to de­stroy and lock up a cit­i­zen un­less there has been a proper in­ves­ti­ga­tion,” he said. “We know that at the be­gin­ning and for a long pe­riod of time there was no in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the com­plainants’ story.”

He said the bulk of the charges re­lated to a sin­gle wit­ness.

The vic­tim made “ap­palling al­le­ga­tions of very se­ri­ous mis­con­duct”, but Mr Richter said they “ought to be re­garded as im­pos­si­ble”.

“The com­plainants are un­re­li­able, the com­plainants have made prior state­ments that are in­con­sis­tent or sub­se­quent state­ments that are in­con­sis­tent, their cred­i­bil­ity has been dam­aged,” he said.

Mr Richter said other al­le­ga­tions were ei­ther “the prod­uct of fan­tasy or men­tal health prob­lems ... or pure in­ven­tion in or­der to pun­ish the rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the Catholic Church in this coun­try for not stop­ping child abuse by oth­ers of chil­dren”.

“Car­di­nal Pell has been seen as the face of that re­spon­si­bil­ity,” he said.

Mr Richter said even if his client was com­mit­ted to trial, there would be ques­tions raised about whether he could re­ceive a fair trial.

“What’s in the pub­lic mind is a mish­mash of al­le­ga­tions and fan­tasy,” he said.

The pub­lic per­cep­tion was fu­elled by re­port­ing Mr Richter slammed as dis­grace­ful, sin­gling out ABC jour­nal­ist Louise Mil­li­gan’s award-win­ning book Car­di­nal: The Rise and Fall of Ge­orge Pell.

“She (Ms Mil­li­gan) was out for fame and for­tune,” he said.

Mr Richter said it would be a waste of pub­lic time and money to take the case fur­ther.

Ms Walling­ton will hand down her de­ci­sion on May 1.

AC­CUSED: Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell

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