Is Pell going to trial or not? We will find out in two weeks

Cardinal George Pell appearing at an earlier hearing.
Cardinal George Pell appearing at an earlier hearing.

Cardinal George Pell's lawyers want the case against him thrown out, arguing the historical sexual offence allegations are impossible.

Defence barrister Robert Richter QC has also suggested the allegations may be motivated by a desire to punish Australia's most senior Catholic over the church's mishandling of sexual abuse by other priests.

Mr Richter said Pell should not have to stand trial on any of the charges, especially the more serious and "appalling" allegations.

"Their complaints ought to be regarded as impossible and ought to be discharged without batting an eyelid," he told Melbourne Magistrates Court.

Mr Richter suggested the allegations may be the product of fantasy, mental problems or pure invention to punish the Catholic Church.

"We say that Cardinal Pell, representing the face of the Catholic Church, a prominent person, had been the obvious target of allegations that are not true but are designed to punish him, almost, for not having prevented sexual abuse for many years."

Mr Richter said the other charges should also be thrown out because of problems with complainants' credibility.

Magistrate Belinda Wallington said issues of credibility and reliability were matters a jury would decide if the case went to trial.

"Except when you get to the point where credibility is effectively annihilated," she said.

Mr Richter replied: "As close enough to annihilation that it would be a waste of public money, time and effort to put the man on trial."

Crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said none of the accusers had backed away from their allegations.

He said the defence attack on the complainants' credibility amounted to nothing more than "a conflict in the evidence", which was up to a jury to decide.

"Nothing in what's been put by the defence amounts to any defect in the evidence. It does not fundamentally impact on the reliability of the complainants' evidence."

Mr Gibson said there was no evidence to back the defence theory that Pell was being targeted because the church had failed to stop sexual abuse.

Pell, who took leave from his position as Vatican treasurer to fight the charges, did not have to attend court on Tuesday for legal arguments that followed a four-week pre-trial committal hearing in March.

The 76-year-old is expected to return to court on May 1 to hear Ms Wallington's decision on whether he will stand trial over allegations made by multiple complainants.

EARLIER:

Cardinal George Pell's legal team and the prosecution were due to appear before a Melbourne court for legal arguments about whether Australia's most senior Catholic will stand trial on historical sex offence charges.

Pell, 76, has been excused from attending Melbourne Magistrates Court on Tuesday, when the defence and prosecution return for legal arguments following a four-week pre-trial committal hearing in March.

During the hearing, the defence repeatedly attacked the police investigation into Pell, with high-profile barrister Robert Richter QC accusing police of having tunnel vision and running a "get Pell" operation.

The investigation, code named Operation Tethering, began in March 2013 before any crime had been reported.

Pell was charged some four years later with historical sex offences involving multiple complainants, who gave evidence before a closed court at the committal hearing, as required by law in sex offence cases.

Pell denies all the charges.

It's unclear when magistrate Belinda Wallington will hand down her decision on whether Pell will stand trial.

The defence and prosecution have already made written submissions about the case ahead of Tuesday's hearing.