George Pell's legal team denied access to complainants' medical records

George Pell's legal team denied access to complainants' medical records

George Pell's legal team denied access to complainants' medical records

Updated 14 February 2018, 17:25 AEDT

George Pell's lawyers are denied access to the medical records of his complainants as they prepare the Cardinal's defence against historical sexual offence charges.

Lawyers for George Pell have been denied access to the medical records of his complainants as they prepare the Cardinal's defence against historical sexual offence charges.

Cardinal Pell's defence barristers made an application to subpoena the private records at a hearing last week, arguing it was not a "fishing expedition" but instead believed the documents would contain evidence important to the case.

But Magistrate Belinda Wallington has denied the application.

It is expected to come as a relief to the complainants, who had requested the court ensure their privacy was maintained.

Cardinal Pell was not present for today's hearing but will return to the Melbourne Magistrates' Court on March 5 for what is expected to be a month-long committal hearing to determine whether there is enough evidence for the case to go to trial.

He is fighting historical sexual offence charges involving multiple complainants.

No other details of the case against him can be reported for legal reasons.

Cardinal Pell's committal hearing will be closed to the public and the media for up to two weeks as the complainants give their evidence, as required under legislation.

Charge may be dropped

Prosecutor Fran Dalziel told the hearing that it was likely one of the charges against Cardinal Pell would be withdrawn, but it was still under consideration.

The reason why the charge may be dropped cannot be outlined for legal reasons.

Defence barrister Ruth Shann said they would still seek material under subpoena connected to that complainant whether charges relating to them remained part of the case or not.

Cardinal Pell's lawyers have also sought the medical records of one of the complainants from Justice Health, which provides medical services in Victorian prisons.

Ms Shann argued that under legislation, those medical records were not confidential and that the information could be provided to third parties without a person's consent.

But Ms Wallington raised concerns about the release of those medical records and commented that surely their distribution to third parties must be limited.

She will consider the issue before another hearing next Wednesday.

Ms Shann also told the court that several law firms have provided documents under subpoena.

She said that client legal privilege had been claimed over documents which were provided to an external third party and therefore did not fall under that category of confidentiality.

Ms Shann said the ABC and journalist Louise Milligan have also agreed to provided further documents but need another week to get those together.

Ms Wallington will rule on the outstanding subpoenas next week.