George Pell's lawyer admits being tough on the alleged victims in court

  • By a Broken Rites researcher, article updated 24 April 2018

In the Melbourne Magistrates Court on 17 April 2018, the prosecutors and the defence made their final submissions at Cardinal George Pell's pre-trial hearing (in which Pell is charged with committing multiple offences in the state of Victoria). In summing up his defence, Pell's chief lawyer (Robert Richter QC) admitted that he had been tough on Pell's alleged victims while cross-examining each of them in early March in the closed court (the media are never allowed into court during sex-abuse victims' evidence). Some parts of Richter's final submission (in open court) on April 17 were widely reported but the website of The Australian newspaper on April 17 added this interesting pararaph: He [Richter] also said his cross-examination of alleged victims could be considered "brutality” but it was necessary to expose perjury. “While I apologise for the manner, I do not apologise for the content,” he said.

The April 17 article on The Australian's website was the first time a news outlet had revealed how Richter had behaved towards these alleged victims in the closed court.

The court was closed for the first week and a half in March 2018 while the alleged victims were being cross-examined by Richter. Therefore, the public did not know how Richter was behaving. (However, members of the legal profession knew what Richter could be up to.)

During the subsequent two and a half weeks in March, the media were allowed into the courtroom while Richter cross-examined other witnesses (family members, friends, helpers, volunteers and so on) and the police investigators. Many of these witnesses were obviously upset by Richter's behaviour.

A shorter version of The Australian website's April 17 story about Richter's final submission appeared in The Australian's printed edition next morning (April 18) but, for space reasons (as commonly happens), the printed edition dropped several of the website paragraphs (including Richter's mention of brutality). Therefore, Richter's mention of brutality did not receive much national coverage.

More about Pell's brutal lawyers

This is not the first time that Pell has hired lawyers to brutalise someone. Beginning in 2002, when he was archbishop Sydney, George Pell crushed a former altar boy (John Ellis) who had been a victim of a Sydney pedophile priest (Father Aidan Duggan). In 2002, when he was aged 41, John Ellis told Pell's archdiocese about how his life had been damaged by Father Duggan and by the church's culture of cover-up. Ellis sought an acknowledgement about this church-abuse, plus some support in addressing the damage. But Archbishop Pell behaved evasively, traumatising Ellis further. Ellis then filed a civil-court action against Pell's archdiocese, seeking compensation for the damage done to him as an altar boy. But, instead of making a private settlement with Ellis to solve the court action, Pell instructed lawyers to crush Ellis.

  • To see a full Broken Rites article about the Pell-versus-Ellis civil case, click HERE.
  • To see some background about George Pell's criminal court case in Melbourne in 2018, see a Broken Rites article HERE.

Defence lawyers committing "mischief"

On 2 March (three days before Pell's committal hearing began), Mr Robert Fitzgerald (one of the six commissioners who conducted Australia's child-abuse Royal Commission) gave a talk in Sydney, in which he criticised defence lawyers who “mischievously” attack the credibility of abuse victims in court. To see more from Mr Robert Fitzgerald, click HERE.