Ge­orge Pell case en­ters un­known le­gal ter­ri­tory

Marlborough Express - - WORLD -

The string of his­tor­i­cal child sex­ual abuse charges laid against Car­di­nal Ge­orge Pell has plunged the case into un­known le­gal ter­ri­tory.

Lead­ing Aus­tralian ex­tra­di­tion ex­pert Pro­fes­sor Don­ald Roth­well has pre­vi­ously out­lined three pos­si­ble sce­nar­ios.

Roth­well said Pell could refuse to step out­side the Vat­i­can walls to avoid pros­e­cu­tion, as there is no ex­tra­di­tion treaty with Aus­tralia. How­ever, he be­lieved that was highly un­likely.

He said Pell had so far co­op­er­ated with po­lice, sought to en­gage in le­gal pro­ceed­ings and ve­he­mently de­nied any al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct.

If the car­di­nal did not agree to re­turn, Roth­well said, it would be dif­fi­cult for Vic­to­ria Po­lice to force him to do so.

Aus­tralia could ap­peal to Italy to make the ex­tra­di­tion re­quest on its be­half, he said. Un­der this sce­nario, clergy wanted on charges in Aus­tralia could be ar­rested by Italian au­thor­i­ties if they left the holy city.

Un­der an­other sce­nario, Pope Francis could or­der Pell to re­turn to Aus­tralia. Un­der the church’s in­ter­na­tional code of canon law, the pope is the supreme leg­is­la­tor and is in charge of the church legally.

Francis has pre­vi­ously backed Pell, and en­dorsed him for his high-rank­ing role of Sec­re­tar­iat for the Econ­omy, com­monly de­scribed as the Vat­i­can’s fi­nan­cial boss.

Tra­di­tion­ally, the de­ci­sion to lay charges is based on whether it is ‘‘more likely than not’’ that they would re­sult in a suc­cess­ful pros­e­cu­tion. In his­toric sex crime in­ves­ti­ga­tions, po­lice must con­sider the sever­ity of the al­le­ga­tions, the cred­i­bil­ity of wit­nesses, po­ten­tially cor­rob­o­rat­ing ev­i­dence, and a lack of foren­sic ev­i­dence.

There has been only one other known case where a se­nior Vat­i­can of­fi­cial was charged with sex­u­ally abus­ing chil­dren.

Pol­ish former arch­bishop Jozef Wesolowski would have been the first high-rank­ing church of­fi­cial to go on trial on pae­dophile charges, but he died in Au­gust 2015, aged 67, while await­ing trial.

Wesolowski had been placed un­der house ar­rest in Septem­ber 2014 fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions that he sex­u­ally abused boys while serv­ing in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

The case sparked global con­tro­versy af­ter it was re­ported that the Vat­i­can had learned of the al­le­ga­tions and helped Wesolowski leave the coun­try be­fore he could be in­ves­ti­gated, then in­voked diplo­matic im­mu­nity, pro­tect­ing him from fac­ing trial in the Do­mini­can Repub­lic.

Wesolowski lost his diplo­matic im­mu­nity af­ter he was de­frocked in late 2014. The Vat­i­can de­cided to try him at home but sub­se­quently said he could face charges else­where af­ter its case against him con­cluded. - Fair­fax

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