Cardinal Pell ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges


1 May, 2018 09:08 AM

Cardinal Pell ordered to stand trial on sexual assault charges

Cardinal Pell enters a court in Melbourne on Tuesday. Getty Images

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Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell will stand trial on historical sexual assault charges, a court has ruled.

Cardinal Pell formally pleaded not guilty to the charges on Tuesday. He has consistently denied any wrongdoing.

An Australian magistrate ruled on Tuesday that there was enough evidence for the case to proceed to a trial on some charges, but not on others.

Cardinal Pell is Australia's most senior Catholic and one of the most powerful officials in the Vatican.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington read out her decision on each charge individually in a Melbourne court, following a month-long hearing.

Cardinal Pell has rejected the accusations, saying last year: "I am innocent of these charges, they are false. The whole idea of sexual abuse is abhorrent to me."

Intense interest
The cleric was given a large police guard as he entered the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on Tuesday, watched by dozens of media representatives and members of the public.

During the hearing in March, more than 30 witnesses testified to the court. Many sessions were closed to the public, which is standard practice in Victoria in sexual offence cases.

In open hearings, the court heard that accusations against Cardinal Pell included alleged incidents at a cathedral, a cinema and a swimming pool.

Cardinal Pell is currently on a leave of absence from the Vatican to fight the case against him.