14th March, 2018 | Adam Cooper | The Age
George Pell's lawyer has claimed that Broken Rites, a support group for sex abuse victims, was first to raise the name Pell with one of the cardinal's accusers, before a report was made to police.
Not long after the door to court 22 at Melbourne Magistrates Court was opened to the public after six days of evidence behind closed doors, defence counsel Robert Richter, QC, suggested it was a Broken Rites volunteer who gave the name Pell to a complainant. The volunteer had discussed an allegation of a historic sexual offence with the accuser in 2015.
But retired academic Bernard Barrett,who has worked for the support group for 25 years, told the court it was the accuser who first raised Cardinal Pell's name, not him.
As Mr Richter questioned Dr Barrett, the defence lawyer told magistrate Belinda Wallington: "We are suggesting he [Dr Barrett] provided the name Pell [to the complainant]."
Mr Richter said Dr Barrett's 2015 statement to police did not contain the cardinal's name in reference to the conversations the researcher had with the accuser.
But Dr Barrett said the accuser mentioned Cardinal Pell by name when the pair discussed the allegation. Dr Barrett rejected Mr Richter's suggestion that it would be a "feather in the cap" if the researcher could go to the police with Cardinal Pell's name.
"Did you mention Pell's name [to police]?" Mr Richter asked.
"Emphatically no," Dr Barrett replied.
"Why didn't you?"
"It's a matter for the victim."
Dr Barrett spoke with the accuser's mother in 2014, the court heard, over allegations her son made against a priest who died in 2002. Dr Barrett and the accuser then spoke about the allegations involving Cardinal Pell six months later.
In email correspondence read to the court by Mr Richter, Dr Barrett advised the accuser and his mother to apply for compensation from the church, and even if the accuser didn't need the money he could "donate it to The Lost Dogs' Home".
The cardinal, 76, faces multiple historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants. Details of the charges are yet to be revealed.
He has repeatedly denied the allegations.
The first week and a half of the hearing that determines whether he stands trial was closed to the public and media while the alleged victims gave evidence, in keeping with standard practice in Victorian courts hearing sex offence cases.
When the court was opened on Wednesday afternoon, Cardinal Pell sat to the side of his lawyers and took notes, with two support people – a friend and a Church official – either side of him, as Mr Richter urged Dr Barrett to answer his questions directly.
At one point the lawyer asked the magistrate to "discipline" the witness. Ms Wallington then asked Dr Barrett to answer the questions.
Also on Wednesday, the father of another accuser said he only learned of his son's allegations against Cardinal Pell in 2015, the year after his son died from an accidental heroin overdose.
The father said he was shocked when told of his son's allegations and had never suspected anything untoward occurred.
"I am very aware of that sort of thing ... and I never saw or it was never hinted that there was something going on," the father said.
The father said his son never disclosed the allegations to him or the reason why he began using heroin. He said he learnt about his son's allegations against Cardinal Pell from the police.
"He made a comment he certainly liked doing [the drug], enjoyed doing it and it was nobody's fault he was doing it," he said.
The hearing continues.
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