Australia

George Pell targeted to punish Catholic church: defence lawyer

Source: AAP

Cardinal George Pell wants the case against him thrown out, with his lawyers arguing the historical sexual offence allegations are impossible.

Cardinal George Pell's lawyers want the "impossible" historical sexual offence case against him thrown out, arguing the allegations are potentially motivated by a desire to punish the Catholic Church.

Defence barrister Robert Richter QC said Cardinal Pell had been targeted as Australia's most senior Catholic amid hatred and public furore over the church's response to clergy abuse.

"We say that Cardinal Pell, representing the face of the Catholic Church, a prominent person, had been the obvious target of allegations that are not true but are designed to punish him, almost, for not having prevented sexual abuse for many years."

Mr Richter suggested some of the allegations were the product of fantasy, mental problems or pure invention.

He said Cardinal Pell should not have to stand trial on any of the charges, especially the more serious and "appalling" allegations.

"Their complaints ought to be regarded as impossible and ought to be discharged without batting an eyelid," he told Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday.

The defence said the allegations were accepted by investigators as true amid a climate of political correctness where the "mere making" of historical sex allegations made them fact.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said she was aware of British police moving from non-belief to "almost overcorrection" following the case of British entertainer Jimmy Savile.

"I have not seen anything in our state which would indicate that's the approach that's been taken," she said.

Mr Richter replied: "Your Honour has seen it - in this case. The approach was 'that's what they say and we do not need to test it'."

He also suggested claims about Cardinal Pell made in a television program led to other people making complaints against the cardinal, creating a kind of public furore.

Mr Richter said ABC journalist Louise Milligan's subsequent book had put in the public's mind a "mishmash of allegations and fantasy" before the cardinal had been charged.

"She was out for fame and fortune. The fact is that we know about what happened in Boston 2003 when the Boston Globe got a Pulitzer Prize for exposing the cardinal of Boston as someone who was covering up (abuse)."

Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said the defence attack on the complainants' credibility amounted to nothing more than "a conflict in the evidence", which was up to a jury to decide.

Mr Gibson said there was no evidence to back the defence theory that Pell was being targeted because the church had failed to stop sexual abuse.

Cardinal Pell, who took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to fight the charges, did not have to attend court on Tuesday for legal arguments that followed a four-week pre-trial committal hearing in March.

The 76-year-old will return to court on May 1 to hear Ms Wallington's decision on whether he will stand trial over allegations made by multiple complainants.

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