‘Cardinal targeted by untrue claims’
ALLEGED PELL VICTIMS BLASTED
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.