Cardinal Pell Calls for Investigation into Police over Sex Abuse ‘smear’

The Guardian
July 27, 2016

Cardinal George Pell when archbishop of Sydney. He has for a second time called for an investigation into Victoria police to determine whether there has been a ‘conspiracy to pervert the course of justice’. Photograph: Dean Lewins/AAP

Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, Cardinal George Pell, has for a second time called for an investigation into Victoria police to determine whether there has been a “conspiracy to pervert the course of justice”.

But the force’s top police officer denies any leaks by his officers, saying it’s “clear” the sources of sexual abuse complaints against Pell are the complainants.

The cardinal’s concerns stem from a report aired by ABC television’s 7.30 program on Wednesday canvassing allegations made by two men who have accused him of inappropriate behaviour involving children going as far back as the 1970s.

He strongly denies the allegations, saying he is the victim of a “scandalous smear campaign” and trial by media.

“It seems there has been leaking of information and allegations by elements of the Victorian police to the ABC,” a statement released on his behalf said. “The cardinal calls for an investigation to assess whether any actions of elements of the Victoria police and the ABC program amount to a conspiracy to pervert the course of justice.”

Victoria police’s chief commissioner, Graham Ashton, on Thursday said the force had not provided the ABC with any material and it was clear that the sources of that information were the alleged victims.

Ashton also revealed that he had referred an earlier, similar complaint from Pell to the state’s Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission.

“I got a letter from Cardinal Pell some time ago regarding a complaint around that,” he told Melbourne radio 3AW. “I sent it to Ibac and Ibac had a look and wrote back to me and said they dismissed the complaint.”

Ashton also confirmed an investigation was ongoing.

The ABC released a statement saying Victoria police was not the source of its report.

“Nor did witnesses approach ABC,” the statement said. “The report was the result of our on-the-ground journalism over the course of months, which included finding people who would be willing to talk to us on camera.

“There is a clear public interest case for reporting on this matter.”

In Rome, where Pell has been head of the Vatican’s secretariat for the economy since 2014, he said: “I have done nothing wrong.”

Two men reportedly told Victoria police they were allegedly abused as children by the cardinal when he was a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s. They allege they were groped while swimming at the city’s Eureka pool during the summer of 1978-79.

The pair, now in their 40s, are believed to have given statements last year to the Victoria police special child exploitation taskforce, Sano, which investigates complaints arising from the royal commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

Lyndon Monument told 7.30 Pell would play games with many of the boys while in the pool, throwing them in and out of the water, but also brushing against their genitals.

“That slowly became hand down your pants, or your bathers or whatever you call them … under the water,” Monument said.

Classmate Damian Dignan said he didn’t feel Pell’s actions were accidental.

The two men said the cleric would also often change in front of them. “So we would undress and then he would teach you how to dry your testicles and in between your bum and stuff like that,” Monument said.

The cardinal said he did not wish to cause harm to those making allegations. “I bear no ill will and have no desire to cause them harm but what they say about me is not true,” he said.

He said there had been no request from Sano for an interview.

But Ashton said the issue was now before the office of public prosecutions and did not rule out sending officers overseas to interview Pell. “Anything is possible at this stage,” he said.

The Archbishop of Sydney, Anthony Fisher, who replaced Pell in the position, said the “distressing” allegations were untested.

“The allegations aired on the ABC do not correspond with the George Pell I know,” he said.

The cardinal first called for an investigation into Victoria police in February when reports emerged Sano was investigating him.








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