Details of Pell case emerge in open court - 9News  3/14/2018 4:36:28 PM   

A hearing about the historical sex offence charges against Cardinal George Pell is open to the public after several days of closed court evidence from his accusers.

Pell returns to Melbourne Magistrates Court on Thursday for a committal hearing that will determine if he stands trial over charges involving multiple complainants.

The pre-trial hearing began on March 5 but was closed to the public as the complainants gave evidence as required by law in sex offence cases.

The hearing opened to public on Wednesday afternoon, with volunteer researcher and retired academic Bernard Barrett giving evidence about his work with victim advocacy group Broken Rites.

Defence barrister Robert Richter QC accused Mr Barrett of making up allegations and trying to "pin" historical sex offences on Pell.

"You advocate publicly and you rile publicly against the Catholic Church in particular," he said.

"You make up representations on the website and elsewhere accusing the church of covering up sexual abuse, is that right?"

"We don't 'rile' or make up accusations, we just state the facts," Mr Barrett replied.

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates court in Melbourne. (AAP)
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrates court in Melbourne. (AAP)

Mr Richter also suggested Mr Barrett's volunteer work with Broken Rites involved "trying to pin" something on Pell.

"Would you have considered it a considerable victory if you could pin something on Cardinal Pell as doing something wrong?" Mr Richter said.

As many as 50 people, including the complainants, will be called as witnesses during the month-long hearing.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington will then decide if there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial in the Victorian County Court.

Pell, 76, was charged on summons in June 2017 while he was in Rome.

He has taken leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to return to Australia to fight the charges.

© AAP 2018

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