The inquiry set up to investigate allegations of sex abuse levelled against Sydney’s Catholic archbishop, Dr George Pell, is back on track and set to begin at the end of this month after a week of confusion in both camps.
Pell’s barrister Michael Rozenes has stepped aside after revelations that he had previously represented Pell’s accuser in an unrelated matter in the 1980s. Rozenes told The Sydney Morning Herald that the Victorian Bar’s ethics committee had already ruled in his favour regarding his decision to represent Pell, but declined to comment further.
The inquiry was in limbo last week when the man at the centre of the sex assault accusations contemplated withdrawing from the investigation after the church refused his application for legal aid.
However, after Melbourne firm Galbally and O’Bryan agreed to handle the case pro bono, the accuser agreed to stay in the investigation.
The man has alleged that Pell assaulted him when he was a 12-year-old altar boy at a Phillip Island holiday camp in 1961.
Pell denied the accusations outright and stood down from his post while the church conducted an enquiry.
Pell announced yesterday that he would be represented by Jeffrey Sher, QC.
Sher is a legal high-flyer regarded as one of the country’s top defamation barristers. His celebrity clients have included businessman and football chief Joe Gutnick, athlete Cathy Freeman and Melbourne deputy chief magistrate Jelena Popovic.
In the Gutnick case he was pitted against another legal star, Hypothetical’s Geoffrey Robertson.
Asked by the Age to describe Sher, a Melbourne lawyer said at the time of the Gutnick case: He is a very, very astute cross-examiner, a guy who goes for the jugular. He’s very aggressive in his cross-examination, very aggressive in his submissions. He oozes quality.
And how would he compare Sher and Robertson?
Look, these two are both stars, they are both show ponies, they both have extraordinary egos and, intellectually, I would have thought they were a good match for each other, a fitting match for each other.
The hearing will be held in closed session in Melbourne from 30 September and is expected to last three days.