George Pell sentencing: Cardinal jailed for six years for sexually abusing two choirboys

Former Vatican treasurer engaged in ‘callous, brazen offending’, judge says

Henry Austin
Wednesday 13 March 2019 08:30
Vatican treasurer George Pell heckled leaving court after being found guilty of sexual assault

Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two choirboys.

“In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance,” Victoria state County Court chief judge Peter Kidd told the 77-year-old as he ordered that he serve a minimum of three years and 8 months before he is eligible for parole.

Pell, who faced a 10-year maximum sentence for each of his crimes, is the most senior Catholic to be convicted for child sex offences.

Pope Francis‘ former finance minister was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and indecently dealing with the boy and the boy’s 13-year-old friend in late 1996 and early 1997. The abuse took place in a room and a corridor at St Patrick’s Cathedral, in Melbourne, where Pell was archbishop.

The senior Catholic was convicted in December, but the verdict was suppressed from being made public by a court order until 26 February when further child sex offence charges against Pell dating back to the 1970s were dropped.

He maintained his innocence throughout and has filed an appeal, which is set to be heard in June.

The judge also took pains to note that he was sentencing Pell for the offences on which the cardinal had been convicted and not for the sins of the Catholic Church.

“As I directed the jury who convicted you in this trial, you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church,” Mr Kidd said.

However, he stressed that Pell had abused his position of power and had shown no remorse for the assaults, which he described as egregious, degrading and humiliating to the victims.

The former Catholic cleric showed no emotion during the hearing, standing silently with his hands behind his back as the judge read his sentence. He later signed documents that registered him for life as a serious sexual offender before he was led from the dock by four prison officers.

One of Pell’s victims called the judge’s sentence “meticulous and considered.” in a statement read outside court by his lawyer Vivian Waller.

“It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment, the moment when the sentence is handed down, the moment when justice is done,” the man said. ”It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.”

Australian law prohibits the publication of sex crime victims’ identities.

Another of Pell’s victims died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 without ever reporting the abuse.

The survivor made a statement against Pell the following year to a police task force set up to investigate allegations that arose from a state parliamentary inquiry into handling of child abuse by religious and other non-government organisations.

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Pell has been held in a maximum security prison since 27 February when his bail was revoked.

Pell’s lawyer, Robert Richter, has argued for a light sentence, based on his client’s age, heart problems, no prior history of offending, no physical injuries to the victims and the fact the duration of the offences was short.

Mr Richter sparked a furore when, in seeking a light sentence, he called the offence “a plain vanilla sexual penetration case“. He later apologised.

Mr Kidd, said he was not convinced by those arguments.

Pell’s abuse “was imbued with arrogance, aggression and impunity,” Mr Kidd told the court.