‘Car­di­nal tar­geted by un­true claims’



A mag­is­trate should dis­miss the his­tor­i­cal sex charges against Ge­orge Pell be­cause the al­leged vic­tims were liars who sought to pun­ish him as the face of the Catholic Church in Aus­tralia, a court has heard.

Robert Richter QC, act­ing for Car­di­nal Pell, said public­ity sur­round­ing his client’s re­la­tion­ship with no­to­ri­ous pe­dophile priest Ger­ald Rids­dale and al­le­ga­tions he had knowl­edge of the church’s cover-up of sex­ual abuse “gen­er­ated feel­ings of ha­tred” for the man who rep­re­sented the church, and the feel­ings grew as he rose in the in­sti­tu­tion.

“We say that Car­di­nal Pell, rep­re­sent­ing the face of the Catholic Church, a prom­i­nent per­son, had been the ob­vi­ous tar­get of al­le­ga­tions that are not true but are de­signed to pun­ish him, al­most, for not hav­ing pre­vented sex­ual abuse for many years,” Mr Richter said.

He said it was un­clear whether the al­le­ga­tions were “the prod­uct of fan­tasy, the prod­uct of some men­tal prob­lems that the com­plainant may have been hav­ing, or just some in­ven­tion”.

Car­di­nal Pell, Aus­tralia’s most se­nior Catholic, was charged last June with his­tor­i­cal sex of­fences re­lat­ing to mul­ti­ple com­plainants, and mag­is­trate Belinda Walling­ton will hand down her de­ci­sion on May 1 as to whether he should stand trial.

Mr Richter yes­ter­day at­tacked the cred­i­bil­ity of the com­plainants. “If we put (the com­plaints) up one at a time, we would lose ev­ery one of them,” he said.

“One of the com­plainants didn’t even think about it for 40 years un­til he saw it on tele­vi­sion and it came flood­ing back.”

He said po­lice had put to­gether a “ca­bal of peo­ple who have a com­mon source of in­for­ma­tion” in an ABC 7.30 pro­gram from 2016 and jour­nal­ist Louise Mil­li­gan’s book pub­lished last year. “Each of them have told lies from time to time, demon­stra­ble lies,” he said.

“(They) are re­ally only there to sup­port each other, to try and help each other.”

Mr Richter said Mil­li­gan had dis­torted ev­i­dence of con­flict­ing ac­counts from al­leged vic­tims and pub­lished a “damn­ing char­ac­ter as­sas­si­na­tion” of Car­di­nal Pell.

“She was out for fame and for­tune,” he said.

“The fact is that we know about what hap­pened in Bos­ton 2003 when the Bos­ton Globe got a Pulitzer Prize for ex­pos­ing the car­di­nal of Bos­ton as some­one who was cov­er­ing up (abuse).”

Mr Richter said all charges should be dis­missed, es­pe­cially the more se­ri­ous al­le­ga­tions made by two of the al­leged vic­tims.

“Their com­plaints ought to be re­garded as im­pos­si­ble and ought to be dis­charged with­out bat­ting an eyelid,” he said.

He said the cred­i­bil­ity of the al­leged vic­tims was dam­aged and the al­le­ga­tions had fun­da­men­tal de­fects with the tim­ing of one of the al­le­ga­tions, ren­der­ing sub­se­quent al­le­ga­tions im­pos­si­ble.

Ms Walling­ton said is­sues of cred­i­bil­ity and re­li­a­bil­ity were for a jury to de­cide.

Prose­cu­tor Mark Gib­son SC said the at­tacks on com­plainants’ cred­i­bil­ity and the way the in­ves­ti­ga­tion was con­ducted was noth­ing more than a con­flict in ev­i­dence.

He said the sug­ges­tion an al­leged vic­tim was mo­ti­vated to ac­cuse the car­di­nal be­cause the man held him re­spon­si­ble for not stop­ping church abuse was “noth­ing more than a the­ory” and should be ig­nored by the mag­is­trate.


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