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Cardinal George Pell to hear evidence from complainants alleging historic sex offences
06 March 2018, 01:52 | Floyd Cook
Vatican's Pell faces crucial hearing on sex abuse claims
Cardinal George Pell, a top advisor to Pope Francis, arrived on Monday (March 5) for a crucial hearing in Australia to determine if he stands trial on multiple historical sexual offence charges.
Cardinal Pell is facing historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants.
(AAP) Journalists from local and global outlets have reserved seats at Cardinal George Pell's pre-trial hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Monday, March 5.
Mr Richter said he meant to cross-examine on those issues.
The hearing will be closed to the public and media for at least two weeks as the complainants give their evidence.
Richter also told the court a report into how Victorian police should investigate "prominent people" ought to remain in the brief, and suggested police had not followed procedure.
"These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offences", he said. Prosecutors also asked for permission for a witness support dog to be allowed in the facility, which was described in the court as "a relatively new initiative". "I know they don't suit the prosecution because they're exculpatory, but they're still there and they're in the possession of the police", he said.
The magistrate will then decide if there is sufficient evidence for the case to go to trial.
He has previously walked slowly into court for two hearings in July and October a year ago alongside his barrister Robert Richter QC, one of the most expensive criminal silks in the country, rumoured to be commanding a fee of $16,000 a day.
He said: "I always thought that dogs were for children and very old people".
In 2016 Pell testified from Rome by video to Australia's longest-running royal commission, the country's highest form of inquiry, which is investigating claims of sexual abuse.
Pell will also be allowed to have a support person with him during the closed sessions, with Mr Richter saying it was important because of the cardinal's age and health.
The case places both the cardinal and the pope in potentially perilous territory.
When Pell entered the courtroom shortly after 9am, a woman called out: "Hello, Father". For Pell, the charges are a threat to his freedom, his reputation and his career.
The former Sydney and Melbourne archbishop did not have to attend the previous hearings, but opted to do so, having vowed to clear his name after a two-year investigation led to him being charged on June 29 last year. For Francis, they are a threat to his credibility, given that he famously promised a "zero tolerance" policy for sex abuse in the church.
Pell was archbishop of Melbourne before working as Prefect of the Secretariat of the Economy, the Vatican's finance director.
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