Cardinal George Pell expected in Melbourne court for second hearing over alleged historical sexual offences

Cardinal George Pell expected in Melbourne court for second hearing over alleged historical sexual offences

Cardinal George Pell expected in Melbourne court for second hearing over alleged historical sexual offences

Updated 6 October 2017, 9:05 AEDT

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric is expected to return to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today for a brief hearing as he fights historical sexual offence allegations.

Cardinal George Pell is expected to return to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court today for a brief hearing as he fights historical sexual offence allegations.

Cardinal Pell and his legal team required a police escort to enter the court building before his first appearance in July, as they were swamped by a huge pack of international and local journalists.

Australia's most senior Catholic cleric is not required to attend today's hearing, which will deal with procedural issues ahead of a committal hearing.

Cardinal Pell was charged by Victoria Police detectives in June with historical sexual offences involving multiple complainants.

The exact details and nature of the charges have not been made public.

Prosecutors were last month due to serve a brief of evidence on Cardinal Pell's legal team, including top criminal barrister Robert Richter QC.

Last July, Mr Richter told Cardinal Pell's first court hearing that his client did not have to enter a plea at that early stage in proceedings, but would maintain his innocence.

"For the avoidance of doubt and because of the interest, might I indicate that Cardinal Pell pleads not guilty to all charges and will maintain his presumed innocence that he has," he said.

Details of charges unlikely to be revealed

The magistrate refused the media's request for access to the court file including charge sheets, and the court is not expected to change its position at today's hearing.

Protesters and supporters joined journalists on the steps of the court before Cardinal Pell's last hearing.

The Pope granted him leave from his duties as Prefect of the Vatican Secretariat, a very senior role in the papal administration, to return to Australia to fight the charges.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has previously said it would not pay its former archbishop's legal costs.

But a fund has been set up for Cardinal Pell's supporters to donate money to help fund his legal team.

It is being run by a law firm based in Ivanhoe East in Melbourne's north-east.