Will Cardinal Pell face a trial by jury in sex abuse case?


Gerard O’Connell
April 27, 2018

On May 1, Cardinal George Pell will know whether he has to stand trial to face allegations of historical sexual offenses or not. On that day, the Australian magistrate, Belinda Wallington, who heard the case, will announce her verdict.

She will do so after having listened to the case during four weeks of committal hearings in Melbourne Magistrates’ Court in March and April, almost half of which were held behind closed doors, as is normal in such cases. She will decide whether there is enough evidence to warrant a trial by jury or whether to dismiss the case. If she decides to send him for trial, she is also likely to announce the charges.

The names of the complainants, the details of the allegations and evidence, as well as the charges against the cardinal are not known publicly, and the Australian press and other media have been prohibited by law from publishing either.

The media could only report what happened in the public sessions when the cardinal’s defense lawyer, Robert Richter, arguably Australia’s foremost defense counsel, cross-examined witnesses who were not the accusers. From the open court sessions, however, it is evident the prosecution has suffered some major setbacks: One of its witnesses has died, another withdrew from the case for reasons of serious illness, while a third made a fresh statement to the police and so his case will now be considered separately as part of a new investigation. The prosecutors also withdrew some potential charges but indicated that they are likely to resubmit them at a later date, which would seem to suggest another trial.

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