George Pell's lawyers ask for accusers' medical records

Cardinal George Pell
Cardinal George Pell at Melbourne Magistrates' Court in 2017. Source: Getty

Lawyers for Cardinal George Pell are seeking access to the private medical records of complainants in the case against him.

Pell, Australia’s highest ranking Catholic figure, will face court next month on historical sexual assault allegations.

The ABC reports that Pell’s barrister Ruth Shann told the Melbourne Magistrates Court that subpoenas had been served to five service providers relating to three of Pell’s accusers.

She said it was not “fishing expedition” and that she needed access to the records to help build her defence for the case.

“We would not get very far at a committal just asking these people,” she said, referring to Pell’s accusers.

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Shann told the court one of the complainants underwent medical treatment and may not be in the best position to describe their mental state, calling instead for professional assessment.

The prosecution has opposed the application. Magistrate Belinda Wallington has adjured the case until Wednesday.

Pell is set to face a four-week committal hearing in the Melbourne Magistrates’ Court next month. He was charged with multiple accounts of child sexual assault in June, 2017. The allegations relate back to his time with the Church in Ballarat, Victoria.

Pell, who currently resides at The Vatican in Italy, has consistently denied the allegations against. He previously claimed they were part of a media smear campaign against him.

“The allegations are untrue, I deny them absolutely,” he said last year. “I’m like any other Australian — I’m entitled to a fair go.”

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Recently, the case against him was thrown into doubt after one of his main accusers, Damian Dignan, died in Victoria following a long illness.

It was Dignan’s allegations that lead Victoria Police to publicly reveal Cardinal Pell was under investigation for the alleged abuse within Australian churches.

Former chief Victorian magistrate and crown prosecutor Nicholas Papas told The Australian the death has complicated the case. “It’s not an unreasonable quote to say that prosecutors could have a more difficult task now, yes,” he said.

“Normally it requires that the person who has given evidence to be there, and so normally it would be the case that without them there, the prosecution can’t proceed … but you can’t be absolutely sure.”

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