Cardinal George Pell to plead not guilty to historical sexual abuse case

Cardinal George Pell will plead not guilty to all accusations of sexual assault against him, his lawyer has told a Melbourne court

Cardinal George Pell due to front Melbourne court on charges
Cardinal George Pell due to front Melbourne court on charges

Vatican finance chief Cardinal George Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, denied all charges of historical sexual abuse on Wednesday at his first appearance in an Australian court over the allegations.

Pell has appeared in the Melbourne magistrates court charged with multiple historical sexual abuse offences. Details of the charges have not been made public although police said they involved "multiple complainants". The former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop has always maintained his innocence.

Seated behind his lawyer, Robert Richter, QC, dressed in a simple black suit and clerical collar, Pell did not speak throughout the six-minute filing hearing.

Richter said that while Pell was not required to enter a plea unless and until the matter was committed for trial, he would, because of the media and public interest in the case, indicate a plea of not guilty now.

“Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all charges and will maintain the presumption of innocence,” he said.

Magistrate Duncan Reynolds ordered the prosecution serve a brief of evidence by 8 September with Pell to return to court for a committal mention on 6 October.

Prosecutor Andrew Tinney, SC, said Pell was facing “multiple historic sexual offence charges with respect to multiple complainants”.

He warned media and the public not to speculate on the outcome of the case or risk contempt of court charges under the doctrine of sub judice.

“The director of public prosecutions has already had to write to a number of media outlets with regard to articles that appeared to be in breach of those rules that apply,” Tinney said.

The cleric made no comment as he was escorted by a group of police through a crush of cameras, reporters and photographers into the court, which hears hundreds of cases a week for alleged crimes ranging from theft to murder.

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