5 Mar 2019

George Pell's barrister quits legal team

8:40 pm on 5 March 2019

Top barrister Robert Richter QC has quit Cardinal George Pell's legal team ahead of his sentence and appeal, saying he is too emotional and angry about the guilty verdict handed down by the jury.

Robert Richter, lawyer of Cardinal George Pell, walks out of the County Court in Melbourne on February 27, 2019.

Robert Richter, lawyer of Cardinal George Pell, walks out of the County Court in Melbourne last week. Photo: AFP

Pell was convicted of sexually abusing two choirboys while he was the archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

He is due to be sentenced on 13 March but has already lodged an appeal.

"I'm too angry and upset at the outcome to bring the objectivity that an appeal requires," he said.

Mr Richter said he would still be available to help Pell's legal team and was convinced he had a strong case in overturning what he called "a questionable conviction".

"I will not be arguing the appeal myself simply because I believe the Cardinal deserves someone who can be dispassionate enough to present the case to the Court of Appeal," he said.

"I'm too involved and I have been too involved for too long.

"I have not abandoned the team and in fact I believe the appeal should be conducted by people who are not involved in the trial - but I have every faith in the Cardinal's case."

Cardinal George Pell

Cardinal George Pell. Photo: AFP

Last week, Mr Richter issued an apology after he described Pell's abuse of a 13-year-old choir boy as "no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case".

In a statement, he said he had reflected on what he termed "the terrible choice of a phrase".

'Not unusual' to step away from appeal

However, Mr Richter insisted his decision was not influenced by the controversy.

"Not in the least," he said.

"I thought I'd done a professional job here and I thought there would be an appropriate result.

"I am disappointed but the appeal will determine whether my disappointment and anger at the jury's verdict was valid."

He also said it was not unusual for him to step away from a case before it went to an appeal.

"I very frequently do not appear in appeals of decisions in which I've done the trials or the pleas, because I think they usually require a clearer and more independent head to evaluate," he said.


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