13 Mar 2019

Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in jail

2:14 pm on 13 March 2019

Former Vatican treasurer Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Cardinal George Pell.

Cardinal George Pell. Photo: AFP

He will eligable for parole in three years and eight months.

Pell has also been placed on the child sex offender register for life.

The man who was once Australia's most powerful Catholic sat in the dock dressed in a suit without a clerical collar, as County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd carried out the sentencing.

"I am mindful I am sentencing you within a unique context," the chief judge said.

"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.

"Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy within the Catholic Church.

"You have not been charged with or convicted of any such failings."

But he did describe Pell's offending as sustained, with multiple sexual acts carried out amid "callous indifference" to the boys.

The chief judge described Pell's abuse of two choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral as "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims".

"The acts were sexually graphic, both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during the offending," he said.

"There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other.

"There was a clear relationship of trust with the victims and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending," the chief judge said.

The chief judge said Pell's abuse had had a "significant and long-lasting impact" on the wellbeing of one of his victims, whom he referred to as J.

"J has experienced a range of negative emotions which he has struggled to deal with for many years since this offending occurred … he has found it difficult because of issues of trust and anxiety.

"I take into account the profound impact your offending has had on J's life."

The chief judge said he did not have the benefit of a victim impact statement from his other victim, referred to as R, who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 and never reported the abuse.

"However on the basis of J's account at trial I am able to say your offending must have had an immediate and significant impact on R," Chief Judge Kidd said.

"Whilst it is not possible for me to quantify the harm caused, or articulate precisely how it impacted on R in the long run, I have no doubt that it did in some way."

Pell, 77, has spent the past two weeks in custody waiting to be sentenced for one count of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four counts of committing an indecent act with a child.

Each charge carried a maximum penalty of 10 years in jail.

A large crowd, including abuse victims, advocates and media, waited outside the courtroom for the doors to open this morning.

Pell is the most senior Catholic worldwide to be convicted for child sex offences and his sentencing was broadcasted live on television, reflecting the high level of interest in the case.

The offences against two 13-year-old boys took place after Sunday mass in late 1996 and early 1997 in a room and a corridor at St Patrick's Cathedral, in Melbourne, where Pell was archbishop.

The top 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.

Pell maintained his innocence throughout and has filed an appeal, which is set to be heard in June. He has been held in a maximum security prison since 27 February, when his bail was revoked.

- ABC / Reuters

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