George Pell's Lawyer Denies Report He Quit Defence Team
Robert Richter QC has denied reports he quit George Pell's legal team ahead of an appeal process, saying he will "be involved through to the end".
The Age and Sydney Morning Herald reported on Tuesday that Richter claimed he was too emotionally involved in the case and angry at the jury's "perverse" verdict after finding Pell guilty of orally raping a choirboy and molesting another in the 1990s,
The former Fairfax papers reported the barrister felt he did not have the "sufficient objectivity at this stage" to continue with the case, and that he was "angry" with the jury's verdict finding Pell guilty of five charges.
“I think the man is an innocent man and he’s been convicted. It’s not a common experience," Richter told the newspapers.
The papers reported Richter had quit the defence team. It was announced last week that Sydney barrister Bret Walker SC would lead the case through the appeal process. It is common for different lawyers to lead appeal cases than the ones that tried the initial case.
But other media soon reported that Richter had denied quitting the defence. In a statement circulated to media two hours after the initial newspaper reports, Pell's legal team stated Richter would remain part of the defence.
"Robert Richter did not say he has quit Cardinal George Pell’s legal team. He has not," Pell's solicitor Paul Galbally said.
"Richter, and for that matter, many Trial Counsel, very rarely take Appeals forward if needed. This is common practice. In these particular circumstances, Richter questions whether he has sufficient objectivity at this stage to take the appeal forward himself."
"As Cardinal Pell is well aware Richter is still very much part of the legal team and will be involved right through to the end."
It comes after Richter came under fire for controversial comments in Pell's pre-sentencing hearing. The barrister told the court that Pell's case was "no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case", sparking outrage over comments seen as flippant.
He issued an apology just a day later, after what he said was a "sleepless night reflecting".
"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 Richter's remark.
"It must be clear by now I am struggling with that," Kidd replied.