26 Jul 2017

Cardinal Pell to plead not guilty over historical sex offence charges

3:04 pm on 26 July 2017

Cardinal George Pell has faced Melbourne Magistrates' Court over historical sexual offence charges, with his lawyer saying he will plead not guilty.

Cardinal George Pell arrives under heavy police protection for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court after being charged with sexual assault offences in Melbourne, July 26, 2017.

Cardinal George Pell arrives under heavy police protection for a filing hearing at the Melbourne Magistrates Court. Photo: AFP

Cardinal Pell arrived at court escorted by police amid chaotic scenes as a large media scrum surrounded him and his legal team, including top criminal barrister Robert Richter QC.

He was taken through security as routine and there was a smattering of applause from a crowd inside the building.

The court room was packed with mainly media, some of whom arrived about 5am to secure a place in the line to enter the court.

It was Cardinal Pell's first hearing after being charged by Victoria Police detectives late last month with offences involving multiple complainants.

Mr Richter told the court his client did not have to enter a plea at this stage but maintained his innocence.

"For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has," he said.

Prosecutor Andrew Tinney SC made a brief statement at the beginning of the hearing to warn media the sub judice period had started.

"All reports should be limited to fair and accurate reports of the proceeding," he said.

Mr Tinney said the Director of Public Prosecutions had already had to write to some media organisations which it suspected had breached the rules.

The brief of evidence will be served on Cardinal Pell's legal team by 8 September, but the Cardinal will not have to reappear in court until October.

The magistrate refused the media's request for access to the court file including charge sheets.

Details of the allegations have not been made public.

Cardinal Pell left court alongside his lawyers with a police escort to help navigate the waiting media scrum outside.

As he walked from the court room, some of his supporters yelled: "God bless you Cardinal."

Police closed off a lane on Williams Street outside the court to make room for journalists and camera crews.

Several protesters were on the steps outside court ahead of Cardinal Pell's arrival.

The hearing was expected to be short, in which dates were be set for his next appearance.

Cardinal Pell was granted leave by the Pope to return to Australia from the Vatican for his first appearance in court.

The court has said he would not receive any special treatment.

- ABC

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