Police Deny "Zeroing in" on George Pell

By Jacqueline Le and Megan Neil
Illawarra Mercury
March 29, 2018

Cardinal George Pell will face the final day of evidence at a hearing in Melbourne.

A detective who led the historical sex offence investigation into Cardinal George Pell has denied "zeroing in" on Australia's highest-ranked Catholic.

The police investigation into Pell has come under repeated attack by lawyers during a hearing to determine if the 76-year-old should stand trial.

Robert Richter QC on Thursday said Pell was targeted for "special treatment" by detectives from Sano Taskforce, which investigates historical sex abuse.

While questioning lead investigator Sergeant Christopher Reed, the barrister said a man made horrendous allegations against a nun before alleging Pell committed a sex offence against him.

"Do you say, and I'm not attributing any blame to you, do you say that the allegation against Cardinal Pell was treated like any other allegation?" the barrister asked on Thursday.

"Or was there a zeroing in on him to the extent that far more serious allegations against a nun were not pursued by the Sano Taskforce?"

"I disagree with that statement in its entirety," Sgt Reed replied.

He said the matter was referred to a local investigator, but no charges were laid.

The investigation into Pell, code named Operation Tethering, began in March 2013 before any crime had been reported.

Mr Richter suggested the investigation was given a higher priority in April 2015 due to a royal commission and public concern in Victoria about clergy abuse.

"There was a lot of concern because of the public sentiment in and around the hearings and the pressure coming out of (a Victorian location)," he said.

"What would have made it a priority, I suggest to you, is you wanted more resources because of political pressure, if I can put it that way in a generic sense, to boost resources and inquire to what happened."

Sgt Reed did not agree.

Most of the allegations were not backed up by other evidence and there was contradictory information about Pell's presence at certain locations and interactions with people, Mr Richter said.

"In the end, apart from (two accusers) supporting each other, there's no corroborating evidence for various complainants in this matter," the barrister added.

"I would disagree, in relation to some ... there is time and place, people were together at the time and place," Sgt Reed said.

Mr Richter pointed out there were a number of people at a swimming pool where an offence allegedly occurred, who did not see anything inappropriate.

Sgt Reed said that was not uncommon.

"I don't think I've ever been involved in a sex assault matter where someone has seen the assault," Sgt Reed replied.

Mr Richter suggested it was rare for sex offences to happen in a public place in front of witnesses.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said: "Sitting in the sex offence (court) list on a regular basis, I can say I have".

Sgt Reed was the last witness to give evidence at the committal hearing, which began on March 5.

More than 30 witnesses gave evidence in open court, while the complainants testified behind closed doors, as required by law in sex offence cases.

The defence and prosecution will make written submissions and return to court on April 17 for legal arguments.

Pell, who denies all charges, has been excused from appearing on that day, but will return to court at a later date when Ms Wallington hands down her decision.








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