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Chaos in Melbourne as Pell fronts court

Chaos in Melbourne as Pell fronts court

Cardinal George Pell's barrister accused police of failing to follow proper procedures as a crucial hearing opened Monday to determine if the top Pope Francis adviser will stand trial on historical sexual offence charges.

A four-week hearing has begun in Melbourne to decide if one of the Pope's closest advisors will face trial over sexual abuse.

Cardinal George Pell's alleged victims began testifying in the Melbourne Magistrates Court against Pope Francis' former finance minister in testimony that can not be made public.

Pell experienced intense media glare and heavy police presence as he began a month long committal hearing which will decide if there is enough evidence for him to stand trial.

He was charged by detectives from Victoria Police's Sano taskforce in June a year ago and was granted leave by the Pope to return to Australia from the Vatican to fight the charges.

"These documents are certainly relevant to the alleged offences".

The court will be closed to the public when witnesses give testimony and are questioned.

But the complainants, who can not be identified, are avoiding the intense media scrutiny focused on the cramped courtroom and the company of their alleged abuser by giving their evidence via a video connection from an undisclosed location.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said a number of the historical sexual offence charges also needed to be amended to adjust dates and wording.

One of charges was withdrawn on Friday, reportedly because the accuser died. "I know they don't suit the prosecution because they're exculpatory, but they're still there and they're in the possession of the police", he said. As many as 50 witnesses were expected to be called during Monday's hearing.

Richter told Wallington that given Pell's age and medical condition, it was important that he be allowed to be accompanied in court by a supporter.

He progressed to archbishop of Australia's biggest city, Sydney, before moving to the Vatican as a prefect of the church's economy ministry in 2014.

He will plead not guilty to all charges, his lawyer said previous year.

Pell and his legal team will return to court on Tuesday.

Pell was excused from giving evidence in person to a session of Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in 2016 due to a heart ailment.

Pell appeared before it three times, once in person and twice via video-link from Rome over his dealings with paedophile priests in Victoria state in the 1970s.


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