Cardinal George Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic, has been charged with least three serious sex assault offences.
Victoria Police has confirmed Cardinal Pell has been charged on summons over multiple allegations and is due to face Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18 for a filing hearing.
The announcement is set to send shock-waves through the Catholic Church in Australia and around the world.
Read – Cardinal George Pell condemns ‘anti-religious’ demands he return to Australia and face child abuse charges
Cardinal Pell is the third most senior Catholic at the Vatican, where he is responsible for the church’s finances.
The charges are likely to force Cardinal Pell to step aside from his Vatican post while he fights the charges. Cardinal Pell strenuously denies any wrongdoing.
He has retained leading Victorian criminal barrister, Robert Richter QC, and it is likely some of the argument that Mr Richter will make in court will concern the question of whether
Cardinal Pell can receive a fair trial given the large amount of pre-trial publicity.
The precise details of the charges are not known. However, a legal source told Fairfax Media that the Victorian Director of Public Prosecutions, John Champion, has been assessing whether Cardinal Pell should face charges of rape, buggery or indecent assault.
As Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican, Cardinal Pell may avoid prosecution should he choose not to return to Victoria, but he is expected to come back to fight the charges.
Three detectives from Victoria Police’s Sano Taskforce travelled to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell about the allegations last year.
In May this year, Victoria Police received advice from the Department of Public Prosecutions regarding the investigation.
It was the second time the DPP had been asked to review the brief.
On May 25, Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said a decision was “imminent” about the investigation into Cardinal Pell.
He has previously been accused of sexually abusing a number of boys.
He has repeatedly and emphatically denied all allegations, but said he would continue to co-operate with the police investigation.
Cardinal Pell was a priest in Ballarat before becoming Archbishop of Melbourne and then being appointed as a Cardinal.
More to come. – WAToday
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