SYDNEY – The defense lawyer for Australian Cardinal George Pell, the financial head of the Vatican, said on Monday that the presumption of innocence of the Archbishop was not honored during the investigation against him on charges of alleged sexual abuse of minors.
Pell appeared before the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court on the first day of a four-week committal hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence of the multiple allegations of alleged abuses to open a formal trial against him.
At the beginning of the hearing, lawyer Robert Richter accused the Victoria Police of not following procedure in investigating Pell, and of working under the presumption he was guilty, according to the national broadcaster ABC.
Richter argued that the defense gave the police 21 statements from witnesses in favor of the cardinal but these were not properly investigated.
“These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offences. I know they don’t suit the prosecution because they’re exculpatory (favorable to the defendant), but they’re still there and they’re in the possession of the police,” he said.
Prosecutor Mark Gibson said a number of the historical sexual offence charges also needed to be amended to adjust dates and wording.
Historical accusations against Pell range from the prelate’s period of religious work in Australia, where he was ordained in 1966 and worked in various parishes and schools in Victoria until he became Archbishop of Melbourne (1986) and Sydney (2001).