Pell is a vic­tim of a witch hunt, says QC

Charges are ‘fan­tasy and non­sense’

Herald Sun - - NEWS - SHAN­NON DEERY shan­non.deery@news.com.au

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.

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