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Cardinal George Pell’s Sexual Abuse Trials May Be Held in Secret

The charges landed a few weeks later. He returned to Australia and his home state of Victoria, where he served as a priest and bishop, and has vigorously denied the charges against him.

Legal experts said public attention has become a weapon wielded by lawyers on both sides, with potential risks to each.

The prosecutors’ request to bar news coverage appears aimed at heading off a possible attempt by Cardinal Pell’s lawyers to argue that unprecedented publicity would make it impossible for fair trials to occur — especially the second trial, which in theory, could be prejudiced by reporting on the first.

Cardinal George Pell’s Sexual Abuse Trials May Be Held in Secret
Cardinal George Pell’s Sexual Abuse Trials May Be Held in Secret

In 2010, lawyers representing one of Australia’s most notorious serial killers, Peter Dupas, made a similar argument to Australia’s High Court, insisting that his trial over the murder of Mersina Halvagis should be dismissed because of previous publicity. That attempt failed.

But Cardinal Pell’s profile may be even higher, given the decades in which he has had a prominent public role in Australia, and it is not clear whether the judge will side with privacy or transparency.

Super injunctions have become increasingly common in Victoria courts, and the scope of the requested ban is as wide as possible, with the potential to shroud even innocuous information.

News outlets, for example, may not even be able to report when or where the trial is happening, or even why that information cannot be shared.

“It prevents publication of all details to do with the case, including the fact that proceedings are on foot and, indeed, that a suppression order has been issued,” Professor Bosland said. “You can’t even publish the judge’s name.”

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