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Australia: Cardinal George Pell's sex abuse hearing begins

Australia: Cardinal George Pell's sex abuse hearing begins”

His committal hearing before Magistrate Belinda Wallington is scheduled to take up to a month, with testimony of alleged victims likely to be suppressed from publication.

Details of the alleged incidents and the exact number of charges and complainants are not yet known; however, the Cardinal has vehemently denied the allegations since he was first charged last June. He has been charged with multiple offences from multiple complainants.

The Cardinal, Australia's top Vatican clergyman, denies any wrongdoing though details of the allegations have remained unclear.

Cardinal George Pell outside St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on December 15, 2017. About 50 witnesses are expected to give evidence over the next month.

His lawyers have said at past administrative hearings that he will plead not guilty to all charges. "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. But he did question why one would be allowed to appear with what prosecutor Mark Gibson described as a "support dog" while testifying.

He explained the role of the dog, named "Coop", is to calmly lie or sit beside the witness as they give evidence.

He said: "I always thought that dogs were for children and very old people".

Judy Courtin, a lawyer who specialises in representing victims of historic sexual abuse, said the pressure on the complainants when they will be cross-examined by the famously thorough Mr Richter will "be enormous".

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"We say that wasn't followed because there was a presumption of guilt", he said.

On Monday, Richter cited Pell's age and medical condition as reasons why the cleric should be allowed to be accompanied in court by a supporter.

Well, due to Pell's own allegedly "catastrophic" actions, the Catholic Church's reputation has taken another big hit. Details of the charges and complainants can not be reported for legal reasons.

But the complainants, who can not be identified, are avoiding the intense media scrutiny focused on the cramped courtroom and their alleged abuser by giving their evidence via a video connection from an undisclosed location.

The current hearing is expected to be closed to the public and media for two weeks while the complainants give their evidence, as required by law in sexual offence cases.

There had been some speculation about whether he would wear the Roman Catholic Church garb for his court appearance Monday.

Valda Ann Newman held a folder containing the death certificate of her brother, George, and a pole with a Ratsak box attached to it.

The commission spoke to thousands of survivors and heard claims of child abuse involving churches, orphanages, sporting clubs, youth groups, and schools.

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