May 5th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY HECS: hastening our demographic winter

EDITORIAL Liddell is the 'fly in the ointment' of the NEG

AFRICAN AFFAIRS African Continental Free Trade Area ... in the spirit of GATT

CANBERRA OBSERVED Bernardi foray looks to be fading out of view

ENVIRONMENT Is a prolonged freeze on the way for the earth?

MEDICINE NaProTechnology: an ethical alternative in reproductive health

MEDICAL ETHICS Grounds for objection: a declaration on freedom of conscience

OPINION What a republic would really mean for Australia

LAW AND FREEDOM 'Rule of law' does not support exemptions: a reply to Robin Speed

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS Saudi Crown Prince challenges Wahhabists

HIGHER EDUCATION Undoing the dis-education of Millennials

GENDER POLITICS Why are patients being denied freedom of choice?

ASIAN HISTORY Jinmen: the forgotten crisis that brought the world to the brink


MUSIC Grammy salute to Elton John: Revealing revisit to the 1970s

CINEMA The Isle of Dogs: Man's best friend in exile

BOOK REVIEW Australia, we need to talk about China

BOOK REVIEW Novelised life a vivid drama of survival



NATIONAL AFFAIRS Committal hearing dismisses main charges against Cardinal Pell

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Committal hearing dismisses main charges against Cardinal Pell

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, May 5, 2018

After a four-week hearing, Melbourne Magistrate Belinda Wallington dismissed the most serious charges brought by police against Cardinal George Pell, and ordered that lesser charges be heard in the Victorian County Court at some time in the near future.

Cardinal Pell has repeatedly and firmly denied the allegations made against him.

Cardinal George Pell

The prosecution of Cardinal Pell was brought by the police, not by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), which normally handles major offences.

It was reported in the media that the police brief was twice submitted to the office of the DPP, and twice returned, indicating that the DPP wanted nothing to do with it.

During the committal proceedings in the Magistrates Court, the Magistrate said that she would commit Cardinal Pell for trial, except where it was shown that the charges had a “fundamental defect”.

She said that the role of the committal hearing was to refer the matter “except where you get to the point where credibility [of the complainant] is effectively annihilated”.

She added: “It is not the task of a magistrate conducting a committal hearing to assume the role of a jury.”


Charges withdrawn

A number of charges were withdrawn prior to the committal hearing. Others were withdrawn during the hearing.

Magistrate Wallington said: “The most serious offending alleged could not have occurred in the time frame alleged. I find that the evidence as a whole is not of sufficient weight for a jury to convict.”

She also found that a further group of charges relating to one complainant could be not sustained. The offences were alleged to have occurred over 12 months and the complainant alleged he was removed from the St Joseph’s Boys’ Home and from his dorm, and taken to the locations where he alleged the offences occurred.

But Wallington found the series of offences could not have occurred in the period alleged by the complainant, from late September 1978, because records showed the complainant did not live at the home during this time.

His foster mother also gave evidence the complainant did not live in the boys’ home during that time.

“He [the complainant] could not reconcile the differences,” Wallington said. “In this case the inconsistencies must be examined as a fundamental defect in evidence.”

She added: “I find [his] evidence as a whole is not of sufficient weight for a jury to convict.”

A further allegation made by a separate complainant was also thrown out by the magistrate. She said that the complainant had a “cavalier attitude” towards the court and sometimes cited a lack of recall to avoid answering questions.

“It is difficult to see how a jury can convict on the evidence of a man who cannot recall what he said one minute ago,” she said, even when considering the trauma of giving evidence. “I am not satisfied the evidence is of sufficient weight to support a conviction.”

The remaining charges are of allegedly improperly touching boys at the Ballarat Swimming Pool when Cardinal Pell was a priest in the Ballarat diocese, and of exposing himself to a choirboy when he was Archbishop of Melbourne around 1996.

Evidence from eyewitnesses rebutting these two allegations was put before the Magistrate during the four-week hearing, and will obviously be central to proceedings at the forthcoming trial.

Asked how he would plead at the trial, Cardinal Pell firmly said: “Not guilty.”

Following the Magistrate’s decision, Cardinal Pell appeared at a directions hearing in the Victorian County Court.

Cardinal Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter QC, pointed out that charges were first laid against Cardinal Pell in June 2017, but the committal hearing had not begun until eight months later.

At that hearing, it was agreed that the two matters – which related to unrelated issues separated by a period of about 20 years – should be heard separately. It is expected that each trial will run for a period of five weeks.

In light of the age of Cardinal Pell and other witnesses, Mr Richter asked for an expedited trial. The matter will return to the County Court shortly, when trial dates will be set.

Following the Magistrate’s Court decision, Cardinal Pell released the following statement:

“Cardinal George Pell has at all times fully cooperated with Victoria Police and always and steadfastly maintained his innocence. He has voluntarily returned to Australia to meet these accusations.

“He will defend the remaining charges.

“He would like to thank all those who have supported him from both here in Australia and overseas during this exacting time and is grateful for their continuing support and prayers.”

Cardinal Pell took leave from his role as Prefect of the Vatican’s Secretariat for the Economy after charges were laid last year. He returned to Australia to fight the charges.

After the Magistrate’s decision was announced, the Vatican confirmed that Cardinal Pell would remain on leave: “Last year, the Holy Father granted Cardinal Pell a leave of absence so he could defend himself from the accusations. The leave of absence is still in place.”

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April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm