From the Vatican to William Street: George Pell’s next journey is across the street

Sydney Morning Herald

By Adam Cooper

May 2018

It takes seconds to walk across William Street to get from Melbourne Magistrates Court to Victoria’s County Court.

Usually a magistrate’s decision to refer a criminal case to the higher court is just as straightforward, in some cases a formality from the start of a pre-trial hearing.

But in the case against George Pell, things weren’t so clear.

After a four-week hearing in March, which featured more than 30 witnesses and some rigorous cross-examination by Cardinal Pell’s lawyers, prosecutors and defence lawyers submitted pages of arguments advising magistrate Belinda Wallington what to do: commit Australia’s most senior Catholic to stand trial or strike out the multiple sexual assault charges he faced.

The credibility and believability of witnesses – particularly accusers, who gave evidence in a closed court – was to be considered, as was the passage of time, the influence of media reports and the cardinal’s profile, and timelines and geographic layouts which would help determine whether the allegations were plausible or improbable.

At the start of her ruling on Tuesday, Ms Wallington said it was a magistrate’s job to sort the wheat from the chaff, to comb the evidence and determine whether it was capable of convincing a jury of 12 ordinary folk to find an accused person guilty.

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