George Pell: Lawyer of paedophile cardinal apologises for 'plain vanilla sex' comments

'It was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse,' says defence lawyer Robert Richter

Vatican treasurer George Pell heckled leaving court after being found guilty of sexual assault

A lawyer who tried to argue a paedophile cardinal’s abuse of two choirboys was just “plain vanilla sexual penetration” has apologised.

Former Vatican treasurer George Pell has been convicted of sexually abusing two 13-year-old boys in the 1990s while he was Archbishop of Melbourne, in Australia.

The judge overseeing the case described the five offences the 77-year-old was found guilty of as serious, and they each carry a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

But in an attempt to get a more lenient sentence for the cardinal, lawyer Robert Richter claimed the crimes were “on the low end of offending”, and described them as “no more than a plain vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating”.

His argument was quickly dismissed by the judge, Peter Kidd, who told Melbourne’s county court: “I see this as a serious example of this kind of offending.

“There was an element of brutality to this assault.”

Mr Richter issued an apology on Thursday, after a “sleepless night” reflecting on his comments.

Pell arrives at Melbourne’s county court on Wednesday (Getty)

He said in a statement: “In seeking to mitigate sentence I used a wholly inappropriate phrase for which I apologise profusely to all who interpreted it in a way it was never intended: it was in no way meant to belittle or minimise the suffering and hurt of victims of sex abuse, and in retrospect I can see why it caused great offence to many.

“I hope my apology is accepted as sincerely as it is meant and I will never repeat such carelessness in my choice of words which might offend.”

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The details of the case emerged this week after a court order banning reporting of the trial was lifted.

During the trial one victim described how Pell had exposed himself to them, fondled their genitals and masturbated, and forced one boy to perform a sex act on him.

Pell was back in court on Wednesday for his sentence plea hearing, where his bail was revoked and he was taken into custody ahead of his final sentence being determined on 13 March.

His legal team has appealed his conviction and he has maintained his innocence.

The Vatican has opened its own investigation into accusations against Pell following his conviction, which was made public just two days after the end of a major meeting of church leaders on how to better tackle the abuse of children by clergy.

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