Freed George Pell faces new abuse claims

 

 

Acquitted Cardinal George Pell is being investigated over fresh child abuse allegations by a new accuser.

Victoria Police has been conducting a secret probe into Cardinal Pell while he appealed against his convictions to the High Court of Australia.

It is believed the new allegation has been made by a man who works in a professional role.

The alleged incident is believed to date back to the 1970s.

The Herald Sun is not suggesting the allegation is true, only that a police investigation has been opened.

The 78-year-old has always vehemently denied any sexual abuse, and news of the fresh investigation is frustrating for those close to him.

"In any police matter there should be due process through the proper channels," spokeswoman for the Cardinal, Katrina Lee, said.

In an interview to air tonight on Sky News, Cardinal Pell described his treatment by police in the original investigation as "extraordinary".

Police have not yet approached him or his lawyers.

Details of the new claim come as Cardinal Pell awaits the public release of findings by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

Cardinal George Pell arrived in Sydney last week after being freed following 405 days behind bars. Picture: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi
Cardinal George Pell arrived in Sydney last week after being freed following 405 days behind bars. Picture: AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi

The new investigation, and the potential for further criminal proceedings, could significantly delay the release of those findings, which were redacted to avoid prejudicing criminal matters.

It is not known when the most recent complaint was made, but it is believed detectives from the Sano taskforce want to question the Cardinal.

Until yesterday, he was not aware of the new investigation.

The Cardinal was released from Barwon Prison last week after his convictions on five child sexual abuse charges, relating to two choirboys, were quashed by the High Court.

He spent 405 days in jail.

The High Court found the jury that found him guilty was wrong to do so, having not considered the entirety of the evidence at trial.

The Cardinal spent his first night of freedom at a Carmelite convent in Kew before returning to Sydney where he plans to retire.

He had an unusually quiet Easter watching church services and contacting friends in Australia and overseas.

The police would not comment on the new inquiry yesterday.

"Victoria Police will not be providing any comment in relation to these allegations," a spokesman said.

Appointed a cardinal in 2003, he was the Catholic Church's third highest-ranking priest and the Vatican's treasurer when he was charged in 2017 with the offences.

George Pell spent his first night free at Carmelite Monastery in Kew, after a worker removed child’s toy left on the front gate. Picture: David Crosling
George Pell spent his first night free at Carmelite Monastery in Kew, after a worker removed child’s toy left on the front gate. Picture: David Crosling

The investigation resulting in charges being laid against Cardinal Pell began in 2013, before any complaint had been made against him.

In December 2015, Victoria Police revealed in a press release it was probing sexual assault claims at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne between 1996 and 2001 - the period when he was Archbishop of Melbourne - but did not identify who it was investigating.

Months later the Herald Sun revealed police were probing Cardinal Pell over numerous historical sex assault allegations, sparking a furious response from him.

In October 2016, Victoria Police detectives, including now Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton, Superintendent Paul Sheridan and lead detective Sgt Chris Reed, went to Rome to interview Cardinal Pell as part of their wide-ranging probe.

Cardinal Pell dismissed the allegations of sexual assault put to him by Det-Sgt Reed as "absolute and disgraceful rubbish" and a "product of fantasy".

In June 2017 he was charged with sex offences, which was announced by Deputy Commissioner Patton in a rare press conference of its type.

Cardinal Pell was charged on summons by Victoria Police on 29 June 2017 over multiple allegations of sexual assault, Picture: Michael Dodge
Cardinal Pell was charged on summons by Victoria Police on 29 June 2017 over multiple allegations of sexual assault, Picture: Michael Dodge

During the prosecution, police command was forced to concede he had been the subject of a "get Pell" mission.

Details of the investigation, codenamed Operation Tethering, were made public for the first time and police admitted an "intel probe" was established to determine whether there were any unreported serious crimes related to the Cardinal.

When asked by Cardinal Pell's lawyer whether the operation was a "get Pell operation" Supt Sheridan said "I wouldn't use those words but I guess you could term it the way you did".

The new investigation will increase pressure on Pope Francis to pursue a Vatican investigation into Cardinal Pell.

Church sources tipped that investigation would be dropped after his High Court acquittal. It is believed Cardinal Pell has no plans to return to the Vatican, and has told friends he is ready to retire.

anthony.dowsley@news.com.au

 

 

Originally published as Freed George Pell faces new abuse claims



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