Updated: 02/05/18 : 17:21:57
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World :: Vatican treasurer Pell could face two sexual assault charges

Cardinal George Pell is expected to face two trials on sexual assault charges, an Australian court has heard.

The Vatican treasurer, 76, has pleaded not guilty to all charges, and has strenuously denied any wrongdoing.

On Tuesday, a magistrate ordered him to stand trial. The allegations relate to the 1970s and 1990s, a court heard.

Cardinal Pell appeared at the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday, where prosecution and defence teams asked for the case to be split across two trials.

If a judge agrees, separate juries would hear allegations against Cardinal Pell about his time as a priest in Ballarat in the 1970s, and charges relating to when he was archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Much of the evidence given at a previous hearing was not open to the public, and remains confidential.

Cardinal Pell is Australia's most senior Catholic and one of the most powerful officials in the Vatican.

On Wednesday, Judge Susan Pullen said a trial date was expected to be set during an administrative hearing on 16 May.

The cardinal's lawyer, Robert Richter QC, argued for matters to proceed quickly because "my client is 76 years old [and] everyone needs to get on with their lives".

He also said one "critical witness" was now aged in his 80s, and that health was "important" for other witnesses.

The court heard that one trial could examine charges relating to a swimming pool in Ballarat, while the other could hear of an alleged incident at Melbourne St Patrick's Cathedral.

"They are of a completely different nature... and separated by 20 years," Mr Richter told the court, Fairfax Media reported.

The proposed trial arrangements would run for a total period of 10 weeks, the court heard.