Final submissions in Pell trial made: ruling due 1 May

Final submissions in a hearing to determine whether the case against Cardinal George Pell is strong enough to warrant a trial by jury have been made.

Pell, who is Pope Francis’s former finance minister, is facing several sexual abuse charges.

The alleged offences date back to when he was living in Victoria.

Police have described the charges as “historical” sexual assault offences.

During the hearing, the Melbourne Magistrates Court heard testimony from 50 witnesses.

The head of Pell’s defence team, Robert Richter, then counter-attacked the Victorian Police, who opened a special operation in 2013 to investigate Pell.

He called it “an operation looking for a crime because no crime has been reported.

“The allegations are a product of fantasy, the product of some mental problems that the complainant may or may not have, or just pure invention in order to punish the representative of the Catholic Church in this country,” Richter said.

Furthermore, the most serious complaints “ought to be regarded as impossible and ought to be discharged.”

Richter said the false accusations could have been fabricated to punish Pell for the crimes of other clerics and for failing to act against abuse within the church.

A ruling will be made on 1 May about whether Pell will stand trial.

Richter called on the magistrate, Belinda Wallington, to throw out the charges.

The prosecutor, Mark Gibson, disagreed.

He told the court there is no evidence to back Richter’s theory.

Wallington said questions of credibility and reliability were for a jury to decide, “except when you get to the point where credibility is effectively annihilated.”

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