Pell is a victim of a witch hunt, says QC
Charges are ‘fantasy and nonsense’
SEX charges against Cardinal George Pell should be thrown out as “fantasy”, “nonsense” and “impossible”, his QC urged a magistrate yesterday.
Robert Richter argued that Australia’s most senior Catholic was the victim of a witch hunt because of his perceived failure to single-handedly stop child abuse within the church.
In a two-hour submission at the close of a month-long preliminary hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court, Mr Richter slammed the police investigation, the publicity attending the case, and the evi- dence from Cardinal Pell’s accusers whom he said simply could not be believed.
The number and nature of the historical charges have not been publicly revealed, but Mr Richter told magistrate Belinda Wallington there was not sufficient evidence for her to commit his client to stand trial.
He said the investigation, which began in the absence of any complaint, was lacking. Police had automatically believed the complainants, one a psychiatric hospital patient, without proper inquiry, he said.
“It should be difficult to destroy and lock up a citizen unless there has been a proper investigation,” Mr Richter said.
He said the bulk of the charges related to a single witness, who made “appalling allegations of very serious misconduct” which “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.
He 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.”
Mr Richter said that were his client sent to trial there would be questions about whether it could be a fair one, and it would be a waste of public time and money to proceed.
“What’s in the public mind is a mish-mash of allegations and fantasy,” he said.
This public perception had been fuelled by reporting he slammed as disgraceful.
Singling out ABC journalist Louise Milligan’s award-winning book Cardinal: The Rise and Fall of George Pell, he said: “He hadn’t fallen (at the time of publication). He hadn’t even been charged. When it became clear that charges were imminent … (the publisher and Milligan) brought forward the publication of this damning character assassination book.”
“She (Milligan) was out for fame and fortune,” he said.
Ms Wallington will announce her decision on May 1.