Dismiss Pell charges — lawyer
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