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Cardinal Pell to stand trial on sex offences

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Cardinal George Pell will stand trial on a number of historical sexual offence charges, but the most serious have been dismissed.

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Melbourne magistrate Belinda Wallington on today ordered Pell, 76, to stand trial on some charges and but struck out half of those she was asked to consider.

Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric has strenuously denied all charges and was in court today to plead not guilty.

Among the charges thrown out of court was an allegation Pell abused a complainant during a screening of the film Close Encounters of a Third Kind at a country Victorian cinema.

Charges alleging Pell had continued to abuse the same complainant over a 12-month period at a church and another location were also struck out.

“The most serious offending alleged could not have occurred in the time frame alleged,” Wallington said.

“I find that the evidence of a whole is not of sufficient weight for a jury to convict.”

Wallington also struck out another charge centred on an incident at a swimming pool after she found the complainant was an “unsatisfactory witness”.

“His lack of recall was often a non-responsive way of avoiding answering questions,” she told the court.

“It is difficult to see how a jury can convict on the evidence of a man who said he can’t recall what he said a minute ago.”

Wallington said the complainant represented one of the rare instances when a witness’ “cavalier attitude” to giving evidence meant “no jury can put weight upon it”.

Tuesday’s decision follows a four-week long pre-trial committal hearing in March during which more than 30 people were cross-examined by the defence.

The charges committed for trial will be dealt with by Victoria’s County Court.

– AAP

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