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Cardinal Pell makes first court appearance

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Cardinal George Pell plans to plead not guilty to multiple charges of historical sex offences. The 76-year-old did not speak during a six-minute-long filing hearing at Melbourne Magistrates’ Court today. But his lawyer Robert Richter QC told the court Pell denies all charges.

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“For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell will plead not guilty to all the charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has,” the barrister told the court.

A deadline of September 8 has been given for police and prosecutors to provide their brief of evidence to Pell and his legal team.

“I can indicate that it is my expectation the brief will be delivered well before, possibly late next week,” prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC said.

Magistrate Duncan Reynolds has set October 6 as the date for the next mention of the matter.

Pell’s defence team did not ask the magistrate to excuse the cardinal from appearing when the case returns to court.

The 76-year-old has taken leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to return to Australia to fight historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants.

The third most powerful person in the Catholic Church was confronted with a massive contingent of Australian and international media on his arrival at court on Wednesday morning.

“Not unsurprisingly, there’s been a great deal of media and other interest in these matters,” Tinney said.

Pell was charged on June 29 and as he was charged on summons, he was not required to appear at Wednesday’s filing hearing but indicated he would attend.

The matter will now proceed to a committal mention on October 6.

During the mention, counsel will have the opportunity to canvass legal issues before a committal hearing date is fixed.

Pell will not have to enter a plea unless a magistrate decides there is enough evidence to stand trial in the County Court.

“It’s only if the accused is committed to trial that he will be called upon to enter a formal plea,” Reynolds said.

– AAP

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