May 19th 2018

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY The real cost of institutionalised child care

EDITORIAL AGL dismisses $250m bid for Liddell Power Station

GENDER POLITICS As Queensland transgenders birth certificates, 300 women quit UK Labour Party

CANBERRA OBSERVED No pressure on Malcolm to call election this year

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Can Greens regenerate, or are they mulch?

POLITICS Conservative shift in the Victorian Liberal Party

OPINION No fairytale ending from the Land of a Fair Go

LAW REFORM The Nordic Model: proven to curtail sex trafficking

NATIONAL AFFAIRS Committal hearing dismisses main serious charges against Cardinal Pell

GENDER AND ETHICS Transgenderism and the dissolution of identity

PHILOSOPHY The supercharged cheetah

INTERNATIONAL AFFAIRS One Belt, One Road: China's new empire


MUSIC Business as usual: The sweet tinkle of falling coins

CINEMA Avengers: Last Flag Flying and Infinity War

BOOK REVIEW A hungry beast that ate up 4 million lives

BOOK REVIEW Skewed analysis of republic in crisis



CANBERRA OBSERVED Bill Shorten's Budget-Reply speech: for what ails you

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Behind the U.S.-North Korea rapprochement

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Committal hearing dismisses main serious charges against Cardinal Pell

by Peter Westmore

News Weekly, May 19, 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 in the near future.

Cardinal Pell (pictured left) has repeatedly and firmly denied the allegations made against him.

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