Vatican treasurer faces Australian court for hearing on sex offence charges

From Reuters - March 4, 2018

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Lawyers for Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell asked an Australian court on Monday to allow a support person to sit with him through a four-week pre-trial hearing into charges of historical sexual offences because of his age and ill health.

Pell, 76, a top adviser to Pope Francis, did not speak as he was escorted by police through a group of media and protesters into Melbourne Magistrates Court for the start of the hearing.

Pell was summoned by Australian police last year and is the most senior Catholic official to face such charges. Details have not been made public.

His lawyers have said at past administrative hearings that he will plead not guilty to all charges. He is not required to enter a formal plea until a magistrate determines if prosecutors have enough evidence for a case to be committed to a full trial.

The court was open to the public for less than half an hour for legal arguments after it began.

It was later closed while Pells accusers were questioned via video link from a remote facility, which is normal under Australian rules for cases involving sexual offences.

The hearing was expected to remain closed for up to two weeks.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson asked the court to allow Pells accusers to have an assistant and a support dog next to them for comfort. Both requests were granted.


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