Cardinal George Pell could face new charges after his committal hearing in Melbourne was told on Tuesday 20 March that a witness had unexpectedly provided a new statement to police the previous night.
Defence barrister Robert Richter, QC, told the Melbourne Magistrates' Court that the ‘‘troubling’’ statement had put his legal team in an invidious position and would not allow them to have the opportunity to properly cross-examine the witness.
Mr Richter said the statement should not be part of the committal hearing and should instead be included in a later hearing if charges were to proceed, once the Cardinal's lawyers had had an opportunity to investigate the claims.
He asked that the first statement by the witness be removed from the police brief of evidence and that the witness no longer be called to give evidence in the committal proceedings. Prosecutors did not oppose his request and the witness will no longer give evidence during the current hearing.
Cardinal Pell, 76, faces multiple historical sex offence charges at the committal hearing before Magistrate Belinda Wallington, who will rule if he is to stand trial in a higher court. He has strenuously and repeatedly denied the allegations against him.
A former Archbishop of Melbourne and then of Sydney, Cardinal Pell took leave from his post as Prefect of the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy when charged by Victoria Police last June.
The exact charges against the Cardinal have not yet been revealed. The hearing is expected to conclude by Holy Thursday, 29 March, though that is not certain.
Fr Charles Portelli, who was Master of Ceremonies to then Archbishop Pell while he was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996-2001, told the hearing on Tuesday that it was "absolutely" impossible that any allegation of misconduct made against Cardinal Pell while he was in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral could be true as he was never alone there while robing for Sunday Mass or afterwards.
Fr Portelli said he helped the Archbishop vest and remove his vestments and would often leave the Cathedral to drive him to afternoon engagements, although if the Archbishop did not have any later engagements he would leave alone.
Former Cathedral sacristan Max Potter told the court that the sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral was always locked after Mass, meaning that outsiders could not enter it without a key.
Pic: Cardinal George Pell leaves the Melbourne Magistrates Court in Melbourne, Australia, Tuesday, March 20, 2018. (AAP Image/Luis Ascui/PA)