How a black Labrador named Coop supported witnesses during the initial George Pell hearing.

Lucie Morris-Marr was the journalist who broke the story in February 2016 that Cardinal George Pell was being investigated by Victorian police over allegations of sexual abuse.

When she called for comment, the Cardinal, who was 74 at the time, denied the allegations.

Just over a year later, he received another phone call, asking him to step down from his position, and travel to Australia to face a courtroom.

It was in this courtroom in March, 2018 that the magistrate agreed that a support dog could sit with the complainants while they gave evidence by video-link in a remote location.

The dog was not allowed to be seen on camera.

Hearing this news in court, Morris-Marr quickly researched the support dog Coop from the courtroom and tweeted a picture from a previous photoshoot with The Age newspaper.

“This adorable Labrador called Coop is on offer to sit at the feet [of] complainants in the #CardinalPell case as they give evidence,” she wrote.

“Part of a new initiative to help alleged victims of sexual assault.”


Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC was behind the move to give witnesses access to a support dog, and the role of Coop was to lie or sit beside these individuals as they presented evidence to the court.

Office of Public Prosecutions Victoria solicitor John Cain told SBS News, “The role of the dog is to provide support and comfort to the witnesses – many of whom are stressed, anxious and nervous”.

“(Coop) provides a calming influence and enables them to give their evidence more clearly and succinctly with less stress and less anxiety. (The witnesses are) much calmer and more relaxed as they’re giving their evidence.”

Magistrate Belinda Wallington described the dog as an “excellent initiative,” with Cardinal Pell’s barrister Robert Richter QC saying he wouldn’t object to the canine “as long as he doesn’t comment”.

Earlier this week, it was revealed that George Pell has been convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys in 1996.

He will remain in custody until his sentencing hearing on March 13.

Image via 9News.

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