The head of Victoria Police has indicated a decision is likely in the next few weeks on whether to charge Catholic Cardinal George Pell in relation to sexual abuse allegations dating back to the late 1970s.
Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton said a decision would be made on the basis of the evidence and the likelihood of conviction.
“They’re the litmus tests here and that’s the decision that needs to be taken now,” Commissioner Ashton said.
“It doesn’t need to be too long from now if we’ve got advice back.
“Generally the process from here, on cases of this nature, are generally done fairly quickly within a case of a few weeks.”
Commissioner Ashton said Cardinal Pell had a right to the presumption of innocence.
Cardinal Pell repeats denials
The allegations were made by two men now aged in their 40s, from Cardinal Pell’s home town of Ballarat, who say he touched them inappropriately in the summer of 1978-79, when he was playing a throwing game with them at the city’s pool.
Outside the Vatican yesterday, Cardinal Pell again denied any wrongdoing and restated his innocence.
“I stand by everything I have said at the Royal Commission [into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse] and in other places,” he told Australian reporters.
“We have to respect due process
“I will continue to cooperate fully.”
Commissioner Ashton said if charges did need to be laid, the media would find out in the “normal course of events”.
He refused to confirm if the DPP’s advice was that Cardinal Pell should be charged.
“I can’t confirm [what the advice was] and won’t confirm that because that’s speculation, so far in the media. It’s not anything police have confirmed and we wouldn’t confirm that publicly,” he said.
Yesterday, lawyer Vivian Waller said the process could be complicated by the fact Australia does not have an extradition treaty with the Vatican City, where Cardinal Pell is based.
Commissioner Ashton said although there was no formal agreement with the Vatican City, Australia did have an extradition arrangement with Italy.
“The investigators would’ve sought advice on that as part of the investigation, I’m sure,” he said.