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Cardinal George Pell is sentenced for abusing two choirboys in 1996

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BREAKING NEWS: George Pell, 77, is sentenced to six years' jail for sexually abusing two choirboys - as judge says the cardinal 'showed no remorse' for his 'breathtakingly arrogant' crimes

  • Cardinal George Pell was until last month the third most senior Catholic in world 
  • In December he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys in the 1990s 
  • The 77-year-old maintains innocence and is appealing the conviction in June
  • On Wednesday he was sentenced for six years by Judge Peter Kidd 

By Charlie Moore and Wayne Flower In Melbourne For Daily Mail Australia

Published: 18:53 EDT, 12 March 2019 | Updated: 22:23 EDT, 12 March 2019

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Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s.  

Pell, the world's most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sex abuse, was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne after a Sunday mass.

The 77-year-old stared directly at Chief Judge Kidd when he imposed the sentence on Wednesday morning which allows Pell to apply for parole after three years and eight months. 

In remarks broadcast live around the world from Melbourne County Court, Judge Kidd called Pell's crimes 'breathtakingly arrogant' and said the abuse has caused 'long-term and serious harm.'  

He said Pell's age and lack of offending for 22 years meant he is not a danger to the community and is not likely to re-offend. 

The judge also took into account Pell's ailing health as he suffers from high blood pressure and congestive heart failure which requires him to have a pacemaker - and said there was a chance Pell will die in jail. 

But because the disgraced cardinal still denies the abuse and is appealing the conviction, Judge Kidd said he had shown 'no remorse or contrition' which could have reduced the sentence. 

Pell, who was until late February the Vatican's treasurer and once considered a pope in waiting, will be placed on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life. 

Guilty: Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s. Pictured: Pell at court on February 26 for a pre-sentencing hearing
Guilty: Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s. Pictured: Pell at court on February 26 for a pre-sentencing hearing

Guilty: Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years for sexually abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s. Pictured: Pell at court on February 26 for a pre-sentencing hearing

Pell is in the courtroom and Chief Judge Peter Kidd (pictured today) is currently giving sentencing remarks
Pell is in the courtroom and Chief Judge Peter Kidd (pictured today) is currently giving sentencing remarks

Pell is in the courtroom and Chief Judge Peter Kidd (pictured today) is currently giving sentencing remarks

After the sentence was passed, stony-faced Pell signed some paperwork and bowed before being escorted out of court to jail.

Some in court embraced while police outside were given three cheers by sex abuse victims.

Campaigners called the sentence lenient and a 'disgrace'. 

Abuse survivor Michael Advocate said: 'It doesn't send any deterrent, it doesn't give the victims any sense of justice.

Referring to the non-parole period, he added: 'Jail time of less than four years for destroying the lives of two innocent young boys - is their life only worth two years each?'

Mr Advocate said it gave sex abuse victims comfort to know that Pell will be behind bars tonight and added: 'May Pell rot in his cell.'  

The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the 70-minute sentencing - the first time he has been seen in public without the collar.

At the start of proceedings at 10am, Judge Kidd said Pell's offending had a 'profound impact' on his victims.

But he made clear that Pell would receive the 'stable hand of justice' and told him '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 in the Catholic church,' the judge added.  

Abuse survivors and campaigners (pictured) arrived at court for the sentencing of disgraced Cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996
Abuse survivors and campaigners (pictured) arrived at court for the sentencing of disgraced Cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996

Abuse survivors and campaigners (pictured) arrived at court for the sentencing of disgraced Cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996

Robert Richter barrister for Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the County Court for sentencing
Robert Richter barrister for Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the County Court for sentencing

Robert Richter barrister for Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the County Court for sentencing

After the court hearing, campaigners called the sentence lenient and a 'disgrace'.
After the court hearing, campaigners called the sentence lenient and a 'disgrace'.
Pictured:  A man watches proceedings outside the court
Pictured:  A man watches proceedings outside the court

After the court hearing, campaigners called the sentence lenient and a 'disgrace'. Pictured:  A man watches proceedings outside the court

The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the sentencing - the first time he has been seen in public without the collar. Pictured: Women watch proceedings outside the court
The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the sentencing - the first time he has been seen in public without the collar. Pictured: Women watch proceedings outside the court

The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the sentencing - the first time he has been seen in public without the collar. Pictured: Women watch proceedings outside the court

Judge Kidd said he accepted Pell's lawyer's argument that the abuse 'involved opportunistic and spontaneous offending, rather than pre-planned or premeditated conduct.'

'Had it been preplanned or involved grooming, it would have been more serious,' he said.

Referring to the victims as J and R, he went into graphic details about the oral rape of one of the boys and the abuse of another in two incidents in 1996 and 1997.

The judge said the acts were conducted with 'physical aggression and venom' and said 'it was by no means a minor indecent act.' 

Judge Kidd said the boy who was orally raped was 'struggling and flailing' during the act.

'You moved from one victim to the other,' he said. 

Convicted: George Pell hobbled into court last month after he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys
Convicted: George Pell hobbled into court last month after he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys

Convicted: George Pell hobbled into court last month after he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys

WHAT JUDGE PETER KIDD SAID WHEN SENTENCING PELL 

  • 'The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending'
  • 'You were confident your victims would not complain. It is fanciful to suggest that you may not have fully appreciated this'
  • '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'
  • 'You had had ample time to reflect upon your previous abuse .... despite this, you still indecently acted against (victim J), and did so with what I consider to be a degree of physical aggression and venom'
  • 'I consider your moral culpability across both episodes to be high'
  • There was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending'
  • 'Your obvious status as Archbishop cast a powerful shadow over this offending'
  • 'I would characterise these breaches and abuses as grave'
  • 'You continued to offend with callous indifference to the victim's distress'
  • 'Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance'
  • 'There is no evidence of your remorse or contrition for me to act upon to reduce your sentence'
  • 'On the one hand I must punish and denounce you for this appalling offending. Yet on the other hand, I am conscious of the heavy reality that I am about to sentence you, a man of advanced years, who has led an otherwise blameless life, to a significant period of imprisonment, which will account for a good portion of the balance of your life' 

 

Judge Kidd said the first episode in the priest's sacristy involved a 'brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims'. 

'The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending,' Judge Kidd said.

'The obvious distress and objections of your victims is relevant to my assessment of the impact of your offending on (the victims).

'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.'

The second episode was 'brief and spontaneous' but could not be viewed as an 'isolated lapse' as Pell had ample time to reflect on his previous abuse of one of the boys, the judge said.

'Despite this, you still indecently acted against (the boy), and did so with what I consider to be a degree of physical aggression and venom,' Judge Kidd said.

'It was by no means a minor indecent act.'

Judge Kidd said by his offending in such a 'risky and brazen' manner, it was inferred Pell was prepared to take such risks.

'I conclude that your decision to offend was a reasoned, albeit perverted, one, and I reach that conclusion to the criminal standard.'

Pell also abused his position by breaching the trust of his victims.

'I find beyond reasonable doubt that, on the specific facts of your case, there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending,' the judge said.

Judge Kidd rejected Pell's defence argument the crimes were committed by Pell the man, not the archbishop.

'Your obvious status as Archbishop cast a powerful shadow over this offending,' he said.

'I would characterise these breaches and abuses as grave.'  

Talking about Pell's role as Archbishop of Melbourne, the judge said: 'There was breach of trust and you abused your position to facilitate the offending.

Talking about Pell's role as Archbishop of Melbourne, the judge said: 'There was breach of trust and you abused your position to facilitate the offending.' Pictured: Media outside court
Talking about Pell's role as Archbishop of Melbourne, the judge said: 'There was breach of trust and you abused your position to facilitate the offending.' Pictured: Media outside court

Talking about Pell's role as Archbishop of Melbourne, the judge said: 'There was breach of trust and you abused your position to facilitate the offending.' Pictured: Media outside court

'You were a pillar of St Patrick's community by virtue of your role as Archbishop. Victim J gave evidence that the choirboys were expected to show reverence in your presence. 

'The evidence shows that you were profoundly revered, Cardinal Pell, which imbued you with and legitimised your authority. 

'As Archbishop, you did have a relationship of approval in relation to the choirboys. In part, the choirboys were performing to please you as Archbishop. 

'There was evidence that you would, from time to time, visit the robing room to congratulate the boys on their singing. The choirboys were the least powerful and the most subordinate individuals at the Cathedral. 

Pictured: A protester outside court for the sentencing of George Pell
Pictured: A protester outside court for the sentencing of George Pell

Pictured: A protester outside court for the sentencing of George Pell

'The victims themselves were 13 years of age. The power imbalance between the victims and all the senior church leaders or officials, yourself included, was stark.'

In summarising his decision to sentence Kidd to six years in jail, he said: 'On the one hand I must punish and denounce you for this appalling offending. Yet on the other hand, I am conscious of the heavy reality that I am about to sentence you, a man of advanced years, who has led an otherwise blameless life, to a significant period of imprisonment, which will account for a good portion of the balance of your life.'

'I am conscious that the term of imprisonment, which I am about to impose upon you, carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison.

'Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you.' 

Ahead of the sentencing, campaigner against child sexual abuse Leonie Sheedy said outside court that she hoped for a long sentence.

'I hope that justice prevails and that Mr George Pell is treated like every other pedophile and sex offender in this state and he is incarcerated for a sentence that is appropriate to the crime that he committed,' Ms Sheedy told 3AW radio.    

Melbourne County Court was packed with abuse survivors including Pell's surviving victim, now in his 30s.

He was orally raped by Pell in the priest's sacristy after a Sunday mass in December 1996, forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend, and then molested again by Pell a month later.

The other victim died in 2014 after a heroin overdose.

Cathy Kezelman from trauma recovery group Blue Knot Foundation said the sentence represented the personal struggle for justice of many other abuse survivors and the outcome is likely to be emotional and polarising.

This is the sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, as it looks today and shown to the jury, where Cardinal George Pell molested two 13-year-old choirboys in his ceremonial robes
This is the sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, as it looks today and shown to the jury, where Cardinal George Pell molested two 13-year-old choirboys in his ceremonial robes

This is the sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, as it looks today and shown to the jury, where Cardinal George Pell molested two 13-year-old choirboys in his ceremonial robes

On the other side of the room is a kitchen sink and cabinets next to the altar wine cabinet, a small room with a white door left slightly ajar
On the other side of the room is a kitchen sink and cabinets next to the altar wine cabinet, a small room with a white door left slightly ajar

On the other side of the room is a kitchen sink and cabinets next to the altar wine cabinet, a small room with a white door left slightly ajar

'For too long, hermetically sealed systems of power, such as within the Catholic Church, have called the shots, protecting the church, its hierarchy and themselves,' Dr Kezelman said.

'Hopefully this sentence can herald fundamental change to the Church and other institutions, starting with accountable, responsible and transparent leadership, hierarchy and culture.'

Pell was convicted in December of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child. Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence. 

Pell maintains his innocence and intends to challenge the conviction in the Court of Appeal, which will be heard on June 5 and 6.

He has already served two weeks behind bars.  

The disgraced Cardinal was the Vatican's financial chief when he was accused of sexually abusing the boys back while he was archbishop of Melbourne.

The victims, both students at St Kevin's College in Toorak, an inner suburb of Melbourne, were reportedly in the choir at St Patrick's Cathedral and were abused by Pell inside the church.

The abuse took place after Pell introduced a compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims known in Australia as the 'Melbourne Response', which he established in 1996.

Pell's barrister had argued it would have been impossible for him to abuse the children while wearing the large robes he was dressed in when he committed the vile abuse.

But the jury of eight men and four women unanimously agreed, after a four-week trial, to convict Pell.

They reached their decision after hearing lengthy testimony from a victim, who described how Pell had exposed himself to them, fondled them and masturbated and forced one boy to perform a sex act on him. 

In his closing argument to the jury, prosecutor Mark Gibson called the accuser's evidence 'powerful and persuasive'.

'He was not a person indulging in fantasy or imagining things to the point where he now believed his own imaginative mind, but was simply telling it as it was and is,' Mr Gibson told the court.

Pell was removed from Pope Francis's inner circle of nine clergymen, the Council of Cardinals, following last year's verdict.

Pell's barrister had argued it would have been impossible for him to abuse the children while wearing the large robes he was dressed in when he committed the vile abuse
Pell's barrister had argued it would have been impossible for him to abuse the children while wearing the large robes he was dressed in when he committed the vile abuse

Pell's barrister had argued it would have been impossible for him to abuse the children while wearing the large robes he was dressed in when he committed the vile abuse

Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over 
Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over 

Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over 

But he remained as the Vatican's treasurer, having been granted a leave of absence by Pope Francis. 

The cardinal was named the Vatican's Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the third highest-ranking cleric in Rome.

Before being called to the Vatican, Pell served as Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014 and was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.

He was ordained in 1966 and made a cardinal in 2003.

Victorian police charged Pell with the sexual assault offences in June last year when he was in Rome.

Pell, who was represented by attorney Robert Richter, QC, stated at a press conference at the time he would return to Australia to answer the charges and he was 'looking forward, finally, to having my day in court'.

'I'm innocent of those charges,' he said at the time. 'They are false.' 

Pell is the highest ranked Catholic to be embroiled in Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.

Allegations of abuse by priests date back to the 1950s but were given media attention in the 1980s in the US and Canada.

In the 1990s allegations were heard in Argentina, Australia and Europe.

In 1995, the Archbishop of Vienna stood down after allegations which had rocked the church. Stories of abuse began to emerge in Ireland in the same decade.

By the early 2000s the Catholic Church sex abuse scandal was a global issue.

FROM ALLEGATIONS TO CONVICTION: A TIMELINE OF THE CARDINAL GEORGE PELL CASE 

1996

- Pell appointed Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope John Paul II

- Pell sexually abuses two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick's Cathedral

- A second indecent act is committed by Pell against one of the choirboys in a corridor at the Cathedral.

2016

- The Herald Sun reports Pell is being investigated by Victoria Police's Sano taskforce for 'multiple offences' committed while he was a priest in Ballarat and Archbishop of Melbourne

- Pell says the allegations are 'without foundation and utterly false' and calls for an inquiry into how the police investigation became public

- Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton asks the anti-corruption watchdog to investigate the leak, but denies it came from police

Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican's treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport
Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican's treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport

Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican's treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport

- Pell gives evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse's inquiry into abuse in Ballarat

- Under Vatican rules, Pell gives Pope Francis his resignation on his 75th birthday, as is customary. It is not accepted

- Victoria Police investigators hand over to the state's Office of Public Prosecutions a brief of evidence on allegations of sexual abuse by Pell

- Officers travel to Rome to interview Pell over the abuse claims. He voluntarily participates in the interview.

2017

- Police present their final brief of evidence to the Office of Public Prosecutions to consider charges

- Prosecutors give police the green light to charge Pell.

JUNE 2017

- Pell is charged with multiple counts of historic child sex offences

- He denies the charges and vows to clear his name

- Lawyers for Pell appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court

- Pell takes leave from his Vatican finance chief role to fight the charges.

JULY 2017

- Pell returns to Australia

- He hires top barrister Robert Richter QC

- Supporters set up a fund to help Pell fight the charges.

MARCH 2018

- Prosecutors drop one of the charges against Pell

- A month-long committal hearing begins to determine if Pell will face trial

- Prosecutors withdraw more charges

- Mr Richter claims police conducted a 'get Pell operation' and accuses magistrate Belinda Wallington of bias. She refuses to disqualify herself from the case.

MAY 2018

- Magistrate Belinda Wallington orders Pell stand trial on some charges, but throws out others

- Pell formally pleads 'not guilty'

- Two trials are ordered, separating the 1970s and 1990s allegations

- A Victorian County Court employee is sacked for looking up information on the Pell case.

AUGUST 2018

- The 1990s 'cathedral trial' begins in the Victorian County Court in Melbourne

- Pell pleads not guilty again to one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of indecent acts with a child, over incidents involving two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick's Cathedral in 1996.

SEPTEMBER 2018

- The jury is discharged, unable to reach a verdict following a week of deliberation. Some jurors weep.

NOVEMBER 2018

- A retrial begins. The jury aren't told of the previous hung jury.

DECEMBER 2018

- Pell is found guilty on all charges by an unanimous jury

- Mr Richter says Pell will appeal

- Suppression orders prevent Australian media reporting the verdict but it spreads through international media within hours.

FEBRUARY 2019

- Hearings begin ahead of the second trial. Prosecutors drop another charge

- An appeal is filed against the cathedral trial conviction

- A County Court judge deems vital evidence inadmissible

- Prosecutors withdraw all remaining charges against Pell and drop a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s when he was a parish priest

- Pell is due to be taken into custody on Wednesday February 27 as the plea hearing begins.

MARCH 2019

- Pell is sentenced by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd.  

JUNE 2019

- Court of Appeal to consider Pell's application to challenge his conviction on June 5 and 6. 

Australian Associated Press

REACTION TO CARDINAL GEORGE PELL'S GUILTY VERDICT 

THE VICTIMS

  • 'At some point, we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.' - surviving victim
  • 'This conviction is a reminder to survivors of abuse to feel empowered to tell their stories. Justice has prevailed and the nation is finally listening and addressing your pain.' - lawyer Lisa Flynn, who represented child sexual assault victims
  • 'I'm utterly devastated about it ... There was no one for them at the bar table today.' - lawyer Ingrid Irwin after a second trial which involved Pell and two of her clients was dropped

PELL'S LAWYER

  • 'Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.' - lawyer representing Pell, Paul Galbally
The two boys were molested in 1996 after a mass Pell conducted at St Patrick's Cathedral (pictured) in Melbourne
The two boys were molested in 1996 after a mass Pell conducted at St Patrick's Cathedral (pictured) in Melbourne

The two boys were molested in 1996 after a mass Pell conducted at St Patrick's Cathedral (pictured) in Melbourne

THE CHURCH

  • 'While acknowledging the judgment of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome of the second trial.' - Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli
  • 'We pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable.' - Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
  • 'The institution has been brought to its knees. It has lost its credibility, frankly. It is still struggling to come to terms with that.' - Francis Sullivan, former boss of the council that co-ordinated the church's royal commission response

COMMUNITY

  • 'Catholics today in Victoria, in Australia, vote with your feet. Have some backbone, walk out of the church house. They won't change.' - child sexual abuse survivor advocate, Michael
  • 'To date, within the Catholic Church, it has been anything but fair, just, humane or moral.' - Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot Foundation for adult survivors of child trauma
  • 'This is is a momentous event, as part of the continuing drama of the Catholic catastrophe.' - former Catholic priest turned child abuse victims advocate Professor Des Cahill
  • 'Thank you to some of the bravest men in Australia and their families for trusting me.' - investigative journalist Louise Milligan
  • 'You're going to burn in hell. Burn in hell, Pell.' - a bystander as Pell left court
  • 'Cardinal Pell's behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate.' - St Patrick's College headmaster John Crowley, having removed Pell's name from a building which had been named in his honour
Pell has always maintained his innocence and has lodged an appeal against his convictions
Pell has always maintained his innocence and has lodged an appeal against his convictions

Pell has always maintained his innocence and has lodged an appeal against his convictions

POLITICIANS

  • 'Like most Australians, I am deeply shocked at the crimes of which George Pell has been convicted. I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn't.' - Prime Minister Scott Morrison
  • 'My thoughts are with the victims - their pain is a tragedy, their bravery an inspiration. They've been betrayed and so have good people of faith across Victoria.' - Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
  • '(I'm) absolutely shocked and disgusted by the details I've read today and I think everybody would feel the same. There are no words to describe how horrible those incidents were.' - NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
  • 'Finally, the good news is that now George Pell's decades of predatory behaviour is out there for all to see.' - Senator Derryn Hinch
  • 'It is truly wonderful to live in a country where no one is above the law, where any person can seek access to justice and to see that justice done.' - Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek
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