Cardinal George Pell will face court over child sex charges

GettyCardinal George Pell.

Cardinal George Pell, the Australian priest who is now a senior Vatican figure, was committed stand trial on historical child sex abuse charges by a Victorian court today.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington discharged a majority of the allegations made during a four-week pre-trial committal hearing in March, saying there was insufficient evidence. They included some of the most serious allegations made against the senior cleric. But Wallington concluded Pell should face court over several counts of an alleged offences, including at a swimming pool in Ballarat, where Pell worked as a priest in the 1970s.

Pell went on to become the Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996.

The 76-year-old was in court this morning, flanked by a heavy police presence, having returned from Italy where he is the Vatican City financial controller.

One trial will relate to charges from incidents alleged to have occurred at a Ballarat swimming pool, while the second trial will relate to charges . Further details of the charges cannot be detailed for legal reasons.

Some of the details of the charges against Pell cannot be disclosed for legal reasons, but the allegations involve the Ballarat pool and also St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne. Evidence remained confidential during the committal hearing.

The Cardinal denies any wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty.

More than 30 people gave evidence during the pre-trial hearing. Some of the charges were dropped because the Cardinal’s accuser subsequently died.

Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, released a statement declining to make any comment about the Magistrate’s decision to commit Pell to face trial, adding that justice must now take its course.

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