We have been told that Cardinal Pell has hired top criminal lawyer Robert Richter QC to defend him against the Victoria Director of Public Prosecutions (‘the Crown’).
Richter will have one or two junior barristers to assist him in court and a bus load of solicitors with their support crew.
Pell is entitled to hire as many private lawyers as he likes.
Just like any person who can afford it.
The financial situation of Cardinals, Bishops and the like are murky waters – perhaps Pell has enough money in his private coffers to cover the fees?
He will gladly take money from private individuals to fund his own defence. There will be many out there who believe in his innocence. Especially the Catholic faithful.
Pell has the right to put the Crown to the test on every legal point. He will enter a plea of ‘not guilty’ to every charge. This means the Crown is put to the task of proving all the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.
It is a very high bar for the Crown.
Pell will not be giving the Crown any ‘free kicks’. The Crown will have to work hard to win every point.
But who pays for Pell’s legal team?
Can he apply for legal aid? Should he be granted legal aid?
Is it right for a man with the backing of the Roman Catholic Church to be assisted from the public purse?
Should Victoria’s taxpayers foot the bill? That’s what legal aid is. A taxpayer-funded scheme for poor criminals to receive a panel lawyer and a fair trial.
Well, sort of.
Pell may receive public money for his trial. But it is unlikely any grant of legal aid will even scratch the surface of his actual bill.
Legal aid doesn’t pay the full price of high-flying private lawyers and their support crew.
This is why Pell will be hoping and praying for Catholics to donate what they can so he can have the best of the best.
Archbishop Roger Herft spent nearly half a million dollars on lawyers to defend him for a short hearing at the Royal Commission.
But this is nothing compared to the marathon Pell will have on his hands. The legal bill for Pell will be in the millions. Over five million. Maybe well over.
Imagine if those millions were spent on the victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Catholic Church.
Imagine how many victims would be able to access the medical and psychological support they so desperately need.
Pell should not be able to take one cent of legal aid support.
Australians would be outraged.
Australians should be outraged.
Why should the public purse – money set aside for schools, hospitals, natural disasters, roads and transport be spent on high-ranking Vatican officials accused of sex offences?
Pell is accused of offences allegedly committed when he was doing the work of the Catholic Church. So why shouldn’t Pell and the Church foot the whole legal bill?
It is up to Australians to speak up and protest if public money is approved for Pell’s defence.
Pell will be coming back soon to millions of outraged Australians.
Holding out his hands for donations and public money could very well be a huge PR disaster for Australia’s most hated man.
We can protest against donations.
We can speak out against Pell.
We can support the victims with our collective voices.
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