Australian cardinal George Pell 'summonsed' on sex allegations

Publish Date
Thursday, 29 June 2017, 12:58PM
Pope Francis greets Australian Cardinal George Pell. (Photo / Getty Images)

Cardinal George Pell is facing multiple child sex charges, police have confirmed.

LISTEN ABOVE: Australian correspondent Murray Olds gives Larry Williams the latest on George Pell's charges 

Victoria Police Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton told a media conference in Melbourne this morning Cardinal Pell had been charged with "with historical sexual assault offences" with "multiple complainants".

He has been charged on summons to appear for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court on July 18.

"The charges were today served on Cardinal Pell's legal representatives in Melbourne and they have been lodged also at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Cardinal Pell is facing multiple charges in respect of historic sexual offences, " Mr Patton said.

Police did not reveal the exact charges being faced by the Cardinal.

Mr Patton insisted that Cardinal Pell was being treated in the same way as anyone else being investigated for historical sex offences.

"The fact that he has been charged on summons, we have used advice from the office of public prosecutions and also we have engaged with his legal representatives is common and standard practice. There has been no change in any procedures whatsoever. Cardinal Pell has been treated the same as anyone else in this investigation."

Cardinal Pell, 76, is Australia's most senior Catholic but is based in the Vatican, where he is serving as prefect of the secretariat of the economy. He is the third most powerful figure in the Vatican behind the Pope.

Australia has no extradition treaty with the Vatican - meaning he could avoid prosecution if he chose not to return to Victoria.

However, he is expected to return to Australia to fight the charges.

He has denied any wrongdoing and rejected media speculation about the nature of the investigation.

Mr Patton said Cardinal Pell had the right to "due process" and have the allegations against him tested in court.

"Preserving the integrity of that process is essential to us all and so for Victoria Police, it is important that it is allowed to go through unhindered and allowed to see natural justice is afforded to all the parties involved, including Cardinal Pell and the complainants in this matter."

Cardinal Pell has been in his Vatican role for four years. He was made a cardinal in 2003 and has previously served as Archbishop of Sydney and Archbishop of Melbourne.

News Corp reported last month Victoria Police had received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions about the allegations against Rome-based Cardinal Pell.

The advice from the DPP was understood to be that charges could be laid against the cardinal, based on the brief of evidence investigators had gathered.

A police spokeswoman confirmed to last month the long-awaited DPP advice was now with officers.

"Victoria Police can confirm that it has received advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions relating to a current investigation into historical sexual assault allegations," the spokeswoman said.

"Detectives from Taskforce Sano will now take time to consider that advice."

The Sano Taskforce has been investigating allegations that Cardinal Pell committed "multiple ­offences" when he was a priest in Ballarat and while he was archbishop of Melbourne.

It has been alleged the now 75-year-old sexually abused minors by "both grooming and opportunity".

The alleged victims - there are as many as 10 - are now aged in their late 20s to early 50s.

The Office of Public Prosecutions first reviewed the initial brief of evidence last year without making a recommendation on whether or not charges should be laid.

The police brief was revised and sent back to the OPP for consideration after Cardinal Pell was questioned in Rome by three detectives from Sano Taskforce.

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