Australia's most senior Catholic Cleric, Cardinal George Pell has called for an investigation into Victorian police following accusations of child abuse; accusations he has strongly denied.
Pell has accused police of 'conspiring' with the ABC to pervert the course of justice. The allegations surround accusations of child abuse involving alleged incidents in the 1990s when he was Archbishop of Melbourne. Such allegations were first brought to light by News Corp in February.
The ABC's 7.30 program reported it had obtained eight police statements from complainants, witnesses and family members. The allegations arose from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and focuses on complainants from Ballarat, Torquay and Melbourne.
The case has now reportedly been referred to the Office of Public Prosecutions following an investigation by Victorian police taskforce SANO.
Pell issued a statement from Rome, where he is based in the Vatican, saying the ABC had 'no licence to destroy his reputation.'
"The ABC has no licence to destroy the reputation of innocent people and Cardinal Pell, like all those who have allegations against them that have not been tested by the Courts, is entitled to the presumption of innocence - not immediate condemnation," Pell said in a statement.
"It seems there has been leaking of information and allegations by elements of the Victorian Police to the ABC."
7.30 aired a story on Wednesday night alleging there has been an investigation into Cardinal Pell, in relation to multiple allegations of sexual abuse involving children. The story also featured allegations made by former St Alipus students who alleged Cardinal Pell would touch them inappropriately when they were in a swimming pool.
"You know, his hand touching your genitals and stuff on the outside of your bathers or shorts. And then that slowly became [a] hand down the front of the pants or your bathers or whatever you call them," said one man.
Victorian police have so far declined to comment but the ABC reported it is believed SANO taskforce has been working on the case for 12 months.