Police presumed Cardinal was guilty, lawyer says

Cardinal George Pell leaves court yesterday (CNS/James Ross, Reuters)

Cardinal George Pell's lawyers have accused Victoria Police of failing to follow procedure in their investigation of him and of working under the presumption he was guilty. Source: ABC News.

Cardinal Pell, 76, fronted a 25-minute administrative hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates' Court yesterday at the start of what is expected to be a month-long committal hearing.

He is facing historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants. Cardinal Pell has denied the allegations.

The hearing will determine if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a trial.

Cardinal Pell's defence barrister, Robert Richter QC, argued for certain statements to remain part of the police brief of evidence against his client, opposing a prosecution application for them to be removed.

Mr Richter told the court they had supplied the police with about 21 statements from witnesses that could possibly clear Cardinal Pell, but they were not investigated properly.

"These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offences. I know they don't suit the prosecution because they're exculpatory [favourable to the defendant], but they're still there and they're in the possession of the police," he said.

Mr Richter also called for a report detailing how police should go about prosecuting prominent people to remain as part of the evidence.

"We say that was not followed because there was a presumption of guilt," he said.

Mr Richter said he intended to cross-examine on those issues.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said a number of the historical sexual offence charges also needed to be amended to adjust dates and wording.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington granted permission for a support person from the witness assistance program to accompany the complainants as they give their evidence via video link from a remote facility.

They began giving evidence today, which could take up to two weeks, during which time the court will be closed — standard practice in Victoria for cases involving alleged sexual offence charges.

Cardinal Pell was given permission to have a support person with him in court as the complainants give evidence, due to his "age and medical condition".

Mr Richter told a previous hearing Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty.

FULL STORY

George Pell's lawyer questions police investigation into historical sexual offence allegations (ABC News)

RELATED COVERAGE

Cardinal George Pell returns to Melbourne court for preliminary hearing (Herald Sun)

Police had 'presumption of guilt' against Pell, lawyer says (The Age)

The support dog helping witnesses during the George Pell hearing(SBS)

Cardinal to face Australian court on sex abuse charges (Crux)

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