Cardinal Pell will stand trial on sexual offence charge, court rules

Cardinal Pell will stand trial on sexual offence charge, court rules

Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has arrived at court in Australia amid a heavy police presence to hear its decision on whether he will stand trial on historical sexual offence charges.

The charges he has been committed on relate to more than one victim.

Cardinal Pell is also accused of committing sexual offences at a Ballarat pool and a cinema in the regional city during the 1970s, when he was a priest in the area.

He was not required to enter a plea during the preliminary hearing, but his lawyers have said he would plead not guilty to all charges if the court proceeds to a full trial.

Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington said there was enough evidence to send the top adviser to Pope Francis to face a jury on "multiple" charges, while dismissing other allegations against him.

Robert Richter QC argued to have all charges thrown out, submitting the allegations against Cardinal Pell are "impossible" the product of "fantasy, mental health problems or pure invention".

Today's ruling follows a month-long committal hearing in March.

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If Ms Wallington decides there is insufficient evidence to commit Cardinal Pell to trial, the Director of Public Prosecutions has the discretionary power to review the magistrate's decision and "directly present" an accused person to trial. He then brought his hand to his mouth and coughed.

Several other charges against the 76-year-old were struck out.

During the pre-trial hearing, Prosecutor Mark Gibson had said none of the complainants had resiled from their allegations against Pell under cross-examination and Victoria Police Detective Sergeant Chris Reed refuted Richter's suggestions of serious flaws in the police investigation.

The Cardinal denies any wrongdoing.

Until now, he has not had to formally enter a plea, although he instructed his lawyer from the outset to make clear he meant to plead not guilty.

Wallington is yet to rule on some other charges. He has regularly attended the court. He wore a dark coloured suit and white shirt. His bail was extended and was ordered to appear in County Court on Wednesday to set a date for his trial.

Archbishop Hart expressed his confidence in the judicial system in Australia and said that justice must now take its course.

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