news

Scoffing and joking: George Pell's initial interview with police in Rome has been released, & more in News in 5.

-With AAP

1. “I’m not guilty”: George Pell’s interview with police in Rome has been released.

George Pell scoffed, joked and described a victim’s recollection of the abuse he is now behind bars for as “disgraceful rubbish” in his interview with Victorian police in Rome three years ago.

As the 77-year-old cardinal adjusts to jail life, the interview exposing the secret of his sexual offending against two boys in 1996 has been released.

The footage, played to jurors who convicted Pell of five charges in December, marked the first time he heard the detailed complaints which he passed off as a “product of fantasy”.

Mamamia’s daily news podcast The Quicky will get you up to speed on what you need to know today…

Pell did not give evidence during the trial, so the police interview was the only time jurors heard from the accused himself.

You can watch the full 42-minute video here on The Age.

Cross-armed and shaking his head he told Detective Sergeant Christopher Read to “stop it” as he read a victim’s recollection of Pell exposing his penis from beneath his ceremonial robes.

“What a load of absolute and disgraceful rubbish. Completely false. Madness,” he declared.

When the physical acts he committed on the boys were described to him, as told to police in 2015 by the surviving victim a year after the accidental death of the second boy, he again denied it.

“What a load of garbage and falsehood. And deranged falsehood.”

Pell continues to maintain his innocence as he awaits sentencing – up to 10 years on each of five charges – by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd on March 13.

Victoria Police has confirmed there are no further investigations into Pell, but the Vatican has announced its Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will investigate with an inquiry that could ultimately lead to his dismissal from the priesthood.

It’s not expected to occur until after an appeal, which Pell’s legal team will pursue along with a bail application after the sentence.

Pell will remain in protective custody until then because of his high profile, including in lockdown which can stretch to 23 hours at time.

His barrister Robert Richter QC apologised on Thursday for describing Pell’s crimes as “a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case” on Wednesday.

“In seeking to mitigate sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many,” Mr Richter said in a statement.

ADVERTISEMENT

Prosecutors have flagged Pell is facing “significant” jail time.

Ten character references were put forward by the defence in an effort to minimise the period, including from former prime minister John Howard who said he had known Pell for about 30 years as being of “high intelligence and exemplary character”.

“None of these matters alter my opinion of the Cardinal,” he said in his statement.

“Strength and sincerity have always been features of his personality. It is my view that he has dedicated his life to his nation and his church.”

Pell will be registered as a serious sex offender.

2. CSI actress Lisa Sheridan dies aged 44.

“Halt and Catch Fire” actress Lisa Sheridan, who also worked on numerous other series like “Invasion” and “CSI,” has died in her New Orleans apartment aged 44.

Sheridan’s “Only God Can” co-star Donna D’Errico shared the news online.

“It’s so rare to find kind, gentle souls like hers in this industry, this city,” she wrote.

Sheridan’s manager told People that they are still waiting on a coroner’s report for cause of death, and that the family insists she did not take her own life.

Sheridan, who attended the Carnegie Mellon School of Drama in Pittsburgh, has more than 30 television credits to her name, including appearances in “CSI: NY,” “The Mentalist,” “The 4400,” “Without a Trace,” and “Diagnosis: Murder.”

3. NSW detective taken off Tyrrell case.

ADVERTISEMENT

A top NSW detective has been taken off the investigation into missing boy William Tyrrell over alleged misconduct claims.

An internal investigation is underway into Detective Chief Inspector Gary Jubelin who last year led a fresh search for William, a NSW Police spokesman told AAP on Thursday.

It’s understood Det Insp Jubelin is being interviewed by the Professional Standards Command over his conduct on Strike Force Rosann which was set up to investigate the three-year-old’s disappearance.

william tyrell inquest 2019
William Tyrrell has been missing since 2014. Image: Supplied.
ADVERTISEMENT

He's facing allegations relating to staff management and using a mobile phone without a warrant to record someone, AAP understands.

An inquest into William's 2014 disappearance is due to be held in March and will run for a week before resuming in August.

"The acting state coroner and counsel assisting have been briefed, and the William Tyrrell inquest will proceed as planned," police said.

William vanished while playing in his grandmother's front yard at Kendall, on NSW's mid-north coast, in September 2014.

Listen to The Quicky debrief on the truth about William Tyrrell's parents, and what happened after the three-year-old's disappearance. Post continues below.

4. Pell's QC sorry for 'plain vanilla' sex abuse comment.


High-profile barrister Robert Richter has apologised for his "terrible choice of phrase" in describing George Pell's sexual abuse of 13-year-old choirboys as "vanilla sexual penetration".

The Queen's Counsel has been blasted for the remark, which came during a plea hearing for the cardinal who is now behind bars awaiting sentence for orally raping the boy, and molesting him and another 13-year-old after a Sunday mass in 1996.

Mr Richter was attempting to note there were no aggravating features to Pell's offending, at a time when he was newly installed as Archbishop of Melbourne at St Patrick's Cathedral.

"This is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating," he said.

He issued an apology late Thursday afternoon, after a "sleepless night reflecting".

ADVERTISEMENT

"In seeking to mitigate sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many," he wrote in a statement.

"I hope my apology is accepted as sincerely as it is meant and I will never repeat such carelessness in my choice of words which might offend."

County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd was immediately unimpressed by Mr Richter's remark.

"It must be clear by now I am struggling with that," Judge Kidd replied.

He described the five charges a jury convicted Pell of in December as brutal and callous.

The statement drew widespread condemnation, including from Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton who said officers "certainly don't treat them as plain vanilla offences".

"It's probably a question you'd have to ask a victim of any sexual offending, not specifically talking about this case, but more generally whether they find that term offensive and I'm pretty sure I know what answer you'd get," Mr Ashton told 3AW radio on Thursday.

Judge Kidd will sentence Pell on March 13.

Each of the charges carries a 10-year maximum sentence.

5. Final refugee children leave Nauru for US.

The last four children living in Australia's asylum seeker processing centre on Nauru have been flown to the United States for resettlement.

ADVERTISEMENT

The children left the island country with their families on Wednesday afternoon.

Immigration Minister David Coleman said they were the last of 2000 children living in detention when the coalition formed government in 2013.

"We got them all out," he said on Thursday.

"This is something the government has been working on for some time, quietly and in a way that would not impact our border protection policies."

The departure of the children and their families brings the number of refugees to have been resettled in the US to 493.

Another 265 refugees have been assessed but rejected by US officials.

Some 394 asylum seekers remain on Nauru and 580 on Manus Island in PNG.

Advocates are worried the US deal won't allow resettlement for the hundreds of asylum seekers still on the Pacific islands.

"Almost six years of detention on Nauru has created a mental health crisis on the island, and the government still has no secure future for them," Refugee Action Coalition spokesman Ian Rintoul said.

But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton says Australians have been "conned" into believing medical care on Nauru and Manus Island is not being provided to those who need it.

Mr Dutton also suggested that recent changes to asylum seeker medical evacuations, which Labor helped legislate against the government's will, would clog Australia's health system.

"We're seeing people at hospitals missing out on medical services because people are taking it from Nauru and Manus," he told reporters.

"Australians will be angry about that as well."

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten rubbished the minister's comments as a "complete lie" and argued any problems with the overstretched health system stemmed from Morrison government funding cuts.

Mr Shorten also welcomed the news that all children had been removed from Nauru.

Wentworth independent MP Kerryn Phelps was a loud supporter of the long-running "Kids Off Nauru" campaign.

"This should have happened a long time ago but I'm very glad that all of the children have been moved elsewhere," she told AAP.

However, Dr Phelps pointed out that some who were brought to Nauru as children had since turned 18.

"We still need to be mindful of their welfare."

00:00 / ???