The Pell scoop and legal proceedings
In February 2016, as the result of a ten-month long investigation on Australia’s biggest tabloid the Herald Sun, owned by News Corp, Lucie broke a world exclusive story on historic sexual abuse allegations against Cardinal Pell.
Lucie had been working as Senior Writer on the paper at the time.
The story resulted in immense criticism from Cardinal Pell, who strongly denied the allegations, and also media commentators including her then colleague Andrew Bolt who gained media attention when he called the story a ‘witch hunt’ and speculated about Lucie’s confidential sources in his column. News Corp columnist Gerard Henderson speculated on Lucie’s sources in print and online.
Victoria Police announced on the the same day as the publication of the Bolt column that due to “media allegations of leaks” they had referred the matter to IBAC to investigate. Cardinal Pell also called for a state government inquiry to investigate the “source of the leak” and wrote to acting police minister Robin Scott Victoria Police requesting that IBAC investigate.
Denis Hart, the Archbishop of Melbourne, supported Cardinal Pell’s view that the story was published purposely to cause damage to the Cardinal just as he was about to give testimony to the Royal Commission via video link from Rome. Hart called for an “independent investigation” into the source of the story
The idea of Pell’s demands for a public inquiry were quickly dismissed by treasurer Tim Pallas who said on Feb 22 2016: “Ultimately we’ve got royal commissions, we’ve got police investigations, if you added inquiries into that quite frankly it’s a bit like a dog chasing its tail.”
Five months later Lucie learnt the IBAC case had been dropped when the commissioner Graham Ashton was asked by reporters about whether charges against the Cardinal were possible.
On Tuesday 16 May 2017 Sano Task Force were told by the Office of Public Prosecutions there was enough evidence to press charges against the Cardinal.
On Thursday June 29 SANO issued a summons and Cardinal Pell was charged with multiple allegations of historic sexual abuse.
On Wednesday 26 July 2017 Cardinal George Pell made his first appearance at Melbourne Magistrates Court for a filing hearing amid a huge international media spotlight. Lucie was first in the queue of reporters at the doors of the court at 5am.
On Friday October 6 2017 the Cardinal attended a committal mention in which a date was set for a committal hearing from March 5 2017. Over 50 witnesses are set to be cross-examined and it will last four weeks. Lucie’s tweet of video footage of the Cardinal leaving court was embedded in her CNN.com report. The CNN news site is the biggest in the world with 100 million unique viewers per month. Lucie also wrote about both hearings in her The New Daily column.
Before the committal hearing there have been several short admin mentions at court regarding Pell’s defence team getting court orders for documents regarding the case. As a result ABC, Broken Rites and Victoria Police handed over materials and documents.
On January 10 2017 Lucie broke an exclusive for CNN on the secret location where the Cardinal has been living during the legal proceedings, tracking him down to a seminary in Sydney. In an exclusive statement the seminary said they were happy to have the Cardinal residing alongside 40 trainee priests and that he was “very much looking forward to the March hearing.”
On December 11 2018, after a committal, a mistrial and a re-trial the Cardinal was found guilty on five counts of sexually assaulting two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral.
On March 13 2019 the cardinal was sentenced to six years in prison, serving three years and eight months before he can apply for parole.
On 21 August 2019 the Court of Appeal in Melbourne upheld his conviction.
On September 17 2019 Lucie’s book on the court case, Fallen – The inside story of the secret trial and conviction of Cardinal George Pell, is due to be published by Allen & Unwin.