Thursday 19 October 2017

Protesters yell at cardinal charged with sex offences at Australian court

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic official to face sex offence charges, was jeered by protesters as he made a court appearance on Friday. (AP)
Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic official to face sex offence charges, was jeered by protesters as he made a court appearance on Friday. (AP)

Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic official to face sex offence charges, was jeered by protesters as he made a court appearance in his native Australia.

The 76-year old is the country's highest-ranking Catholic and Pope Francis' top financial adviser.

He entered the Melbourne Magistrates Court on Friday flanked by police and media as a small group of placard-waving protesters yelled from the pavement.

The 20-minute hearing focused on planning for the committal hearing starting on March 5 that will determine whether he goes to trial.

As many as 50 witnesses could be called for that hearing.

Pell, who remained silent throughout, has been charged with multiple offences involving multiple complainants.

The exact detail and nature of the charges have not been disclosed to the public, though police have described them as "historical" sexual assault offences.

Pell through his lawyer has vowed to fight the charges, and the cardinal has taken leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to return to Australia and defend himself.

He has not been required to enter a plea in court, though his attorney said at his first court appearance in July that Pell intended to plead not guilty.

Pell's attorney, Robert Richter, told Friday's hearing at least one of the allegations could not have happened.

"We propose to demonstrate to Your Honour that what was alleged was impossible," Mr Richter told magistrate Belinda Wallington.

AP

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