Why a black Labrador named Coop is sitting in the courtroom during the George Pell case.

Video by ABC

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 on Monday that the magistrate agreed that a support dog could sit with the complainants when they give evidence by video-link in a remote location.

The dog is not allowed to be seen on camera.

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.”

Advertisement

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

George Pell is the most senior Catholic official to be charged with sexual abuse.

Image via 9News.

JOIN THE CONVERSATION