news

George Pell could face a separate trial in the Vatican after losing his appeal yesterday, & more in News in 5.

1. George Pell could face a separate trial in the Vatican after losing his appeal yesterday.

George Pell could face a separate trial in the Vatican after the Catholic cardinal lost an appeal against his conviction for child sex offences.

When the disgraced religious leader was found guilty by a Melbourne court in December, the Vatican announced he would be subject to a canonical trial.

The Vatican claims the right to try any Catholic priest accused of crimes to ascertain the truth of the charges under Church laws.

In Vatican terms, such trials are not “secret” but “reserved”.

There were no reports on the Vatican’s canonical trial of former Washington archbishop Theodore McCarrick until the final announcement in 2018 that he had been found guilty of sexual abuse and stripped of the cardinalate.

The Vatican press office has not responded to questions on whether the preliminary stage of Pell’s canonical trial had begun.

A professor of canon law at a Roman pontifical university, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said such a trial would try to obtain all evidence from Melbourne and could seek more, a process which would take about a year.

Pope Francis has said he would wait until judicial proceedings regarding Pell had concluded before taking any action but it’s not known whether he intends to wait for a possible High Court appeal and canonical trial in Rome.

There are diverse opinions in Vatican circles. Some insist there should be canonical trials, partly to avoid states dictating to the Church.

Others say the Church should immediately accept the decision of courts of countries with a stable democracy.

Unlike some other cases, it is hard to find anyone in the Vatican – even among those who clashed with Pell – who believe the charges against him.

“It’s an awkward case for the Vatican because a lot of people would think a canonical trial is just a way of contrasting the civil trial, especially if it reaches a different verdict,” says Francis X Rocca, the Vatican correspondent for The Wall Street Journal.

“Another issue is that if there is a papal election before Pell turns 80 in two years time, will Pell be allowed to participate?”

Some Vatican officials criticised Pope Francis for choosing Pell to head the Vatican Secretariat for the Economy because of the sexual abuse allegations against him, even though the accusations were not made until after his Vatican appointment.

Francis has pushed through a global system of reporting and combating clerical sexual abuse but has been criticised for errors of judgment and lack of transparency on this issue.

ADVERTISEMENT

2. A NSW farmer accused of conning family and friends out of $2 million has been released on strict bail conditions.

A mother-of-two accused of fleecing family, friends and business associates of at least $2 million has sobbed through a court appearance before a senior NSW judge bailed her on strict conditions.

Armidale woman Sandra Henri Edmonds, 58, is charged with 40 counts of dishonestly obtaining financial advantage by deception after allegedly ripping off more than 20 people in an investment scam.

Applying for release for the third time since her arrest in July 2018, Edmonds sobbed throughout her bail hearing in the NSW Supreme Court on Wednesday.

She broke down as crown prosecutor Raffaella Buttini suggested she faced decades in prison if convicted.

Ms Buttini, who opposed bail, alleged Edmonds’ “dire financial situation” appeared to have led her to start the “extremely deceitful” scam that hit family members and friends.

Further charges are expected to be laid as investigators continue their search for more complainants. The total amount defrauded could reach the tens of millions, Ms Buttini said.

But Edmonds’ barrister, Scott Williamson, said his client was entitled to the presumption of innocence and if she wasn’t released on bail she faced almost two years behind bars before her May 2020 trial.

Justice David Davies characterised the Crown case as reasonably strong and aired concerns that Edmonds might not care about the $242,000 in assets friends and family had offered as surety.

“She was prepared, on the case, to defraud a lot of people of a lot of money,” he said.

“So, it raises the question of whether … she might behave in the same way towards them.”

Justice Davies said there was a risk she could re-offend if she fell on hard times or wanted to “cover things that have happened in the past there”.

But he ruled strict bail conditions could mitigate the risk. He ordered Edmonds not operate a smartphone, not access the internet and not contact witnesses or others alleged to be involved in the scam.

She must abide by a nightly curfew at her farm on the outskirts of Armidale, not leave NSW and resign her director and secretarial roles with DSJSE Pty Ltd, the Armidale business allegedly involved in the scam.

3. George Pell abuse victim says he’s no champion.

ADVERTISEMENT

The choirboy whose evidence put Cardinal George Pell in jail says he never set out to damage the Catholic Church nor become a champion for child sexual abuse survivors.

He felt he owed it to his dead friend, another abused choirboy, to come forward.

In a statement read by his lawyer Dr Vivian Waller, the man said he was relieved the Court of Appeal upheld Pell’s convictions for abusing him and his friend in 1996.

He went to the police after attending his childhood friend’s funeral in 2014, at a time when Pell was one of the Vatican’s most powerful figures

“I had experienced something terrible as a child, something that marked my life,” he said. “I wanted at least some good to come of it.”

While others made accusations against Pell, their cases did not go ahead and the victim “ended up in the spotlight alone” amid intense worldwide media interest.

He rejected the suggestion by some commentators he was somehow motivated by personal gain in going to the police.

“I have risked my privacy, my health, my wellbeing, my family,” he said.

“This is not about money and never has been.”

The former choirboy also rejected the suggestion he was out to damage the Catholic Church.

“I’m not on a mission to do anybody any harm,” he said.

“Although my faith has taken a battering it is still a part of my life and part of the lives of my loved ones.”

He does not want people to know his name, nor to be an advocate for others.

“I am not a champion for the cause of sexual abuse survivors, although I am glad those advocates are out there. But that is not my path.”

The father of the other choirboy, who died aged 31 from a drug overdose, shed tears of relief when Pell’s appeal was dismissed.

ADVERTISEMENT

“For myself that was a great load lifted off my shoulders, it really was,” he told reporters.

“I’m sad that my son’s not here to see it. I’m really happy for the other victim.”

Unlike the surviving choirboy, the father is pursuing compensation through a civil claim against Pell.

“Something must have happened to those boys because my son suffered a lot of torment,” he said.

“It destroyed my marriage, it destroyed my life and my ex-wife’s life and my daughter’s.

“But to get a verdict like that – it’s absolutely amazing.”

The choirboy hoped the criminal process was all over now.

“The journey has taken me to places that, in my darkest moments, I feared I could not return from,” he said.

He has now started a new chapter of his life as a father.

“I am grateful for a legal system that everyone can believe in, where everybody is equal before the law and no one is above the law.”

4. A 38-year-old man has died after falling from a Sydney building site.

A 38-year-old man has died after falling at a construction site in western Sydney.

Emergency services attended the Jordan Springs site after midday on Wednesday, NSW Police said in a statement.

The man fell from at least four storeys, and police and SafeWork NSW are investigating.

The man fell down a 30 metre ventilation shaft, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The guy was working on the roof to remove building material which was immediately adjacent to the shaft roof,” a colleague who saw the incident told the Telegraph.

“He then tripped over and has fallen down the shaft.”

Seven News video from the scene shows workers on the roof and also in front of the multi-storey waterside development on Jubilee Drive.

Building materials and a stretcher can also be seen on the roof.

5. Scientists are analysing water samples from Loch Ness to decipher the existence of the fabled monster.

Scientists who have completed a DNA investigation of the waters of Loch Ness have said that one theory about its fabled monster “remains plausible”.

The global team of scientists, led by Professor Neil Gemmell, used environmental DNA (eDNA) sampling of the waters to identify tiny genetic remnants left behind by life in the Highland loch and establish a detailed list of all life living in the waters.

During their research launched last June, 250 water samples were taken from the length, breadth and depth of Loch Ness.

The DNA from those samples was extracted and sequenced, resulting in around 500 million sequences that have now been analysed against existing databases.

Professor Gemmell, of the University of Otago in New Zealand, will reveal the full findings of the study in September.

He said: “There have been over a thousand reported sightings of something in Loch Ness which have driven this notion of a monster being in the water.

“From those sightings there are around four main explanations about what has been seen.

“Our research essentially discounts most of those theories – however, one theory remains plausible.”

As creatures move through the loch, they leave tiny fragments of DNA through their skin, scales, feathers, fur, faeces and urine, which can be used to identify the creature.

VisitScotland said the Nessie phenomenon is worth millions to the Scottish economy, with hundreds of thousands of visitors travelling to Loch Ness and Drumnadrochit every year to catch a glimpse of the mythical monster.

Unusual items previously found in the loch include a nine-metre Loch Ness monster model discovered on the loch bed in 2016 during a sonar search.

The model was a prop from the 1970 film The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes, directed by Billy Wilder and starring Robert Stephens and Christopher Lee.

It is believed the model sank after its buoyant humps were removed.

00:00 / ???