George Pell sentenced to six years in jail for child sex abuse

George Pell. Photo: Getty
George Pell. Photo: Getty

GEORGE Pell has been sentenced to six years in prison for the sexual abuse of two boys committed in 1996 and 1997.

He will be eligible for parole in three years and eight months.

The sentence was handed down in the Victorian County Court by Chief Judge Peter Kidd.

Judge Kidd spoke for more than an hour, asking Pell to stand just after 8am local time to receive his sentence.

Pell, who was until late-February the Vatican’s treasurer, is the highest-ranking Catholic to be convicted of child sexual abuse.

George Pell taken into custody for sex crimes

The 77-year-old was convicted in December of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child.

Each offence carried a 10-year maximum prison sentence.

Pell’s surviving victim, now aged in his 30s, was orally raped by the then Archbishop of Melbourne in the priest’s sacristy at St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday mass in December 1996.

Protesters outside the Victorian County Court this morning. Photo: AAP

He was forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend and was then molested again by Pell a month later.

The other victim died in 2014.

“The acts were sexually graphic,” Judge Kidd said.

“Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending.

“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.”

Prior to the sentencing Chief Judge Kidd addressed Pell directly.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd.

“I am mindful I am sentencing you in a unique context,” he said.

Cardinal George Pell guilty of child sex charges

“In some sections of the community you are a publicly vilified figure.

“Over the last period we have witnessed, outside this court and within our community, examples of a witch hunt or lynch-mob mentality in relation to you Cardinal Pell.

A protester outside court today. Photo: AAP

“I utterly condemn such behaviour that has nothing to do with justice or a civilised society.”

The court then heard graphic details of the assaults on both boys, and the emotional impact on each.

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


Boos, cheers greet Pell sentencing

THERE were cheers and jeers and even a live feed of the main event, but this was no sporting fixture, this was the scene on the sidelines of George Pell’s court sentencing.

Outside Melbourne’s County Court on Wednesday child abuse survivors and journalists gathered in droves, filling the footpath with cameras and placards as they eagerly waited to hear the cardinal’s fate.

One of the TV networks set up a small screen showing a live broadcast of Chief Judge Peter Kidd’s lengthy commentary, a TV first, which was beamed around the globe.

“You have had to endure protests and verbal abuse whenever you were seen arriving or departing from court,” Judge Kidd told Pell.

The 77-year-old has already spent a fortnight in custody so avoided the public heckling on Wednesday.

A truck rolled by the court, tooting its horn at the outside gathering. A man yelled “long live the Catholic church”.

When Judge Kidd announced Pell would serve at least three years and eight months in jail, the reactions on the ground were mixed.

An abuse survivor known as Michael Advocate scoffed and stormed off, later returning to call the sentence “pathetic” in its leniency.

The police van carrying George Pell leaving Melbourne County Court. Picture: Getty

Elsewhere there were cheers, smiles and a “hip-hip hooray” for Victoria Police because Pell had been brought to justice.

Among them was state upper house MP Fiona Patten, who called the sentence “disappointing” but said it provided hope.

“There will be many survivors who are desperately disappointed today,” she said.

“But we heard boos and cheers. And I think just the fact that Pell has been brought to justice will be a tipping point in how the church responds to child sexual abuse.”

Leonie Sheedy from victims support group CLAN believed justice had been served.

“There’s never enough time for a pedophile to be sent to prison,” she said.

“But never underestimate that you’re stripped of all your dignity.”

Pell’s high-profile barrister Robert Richter QC was shepherded out of court by police, offering only “no comment” as cameras hustled around him.

With Pell in custody, the anger of protesters has at times been directed at his barrister, and it was no different on Wednesday.

“How can you sleep at night?” one woman yelled.

Moments earlier, the frail, ailing Pell stood emotionless in the dock of the crowded courtroom, awaiting his fate for sexually assaulting two choirboys in the 1990s.

He was not wearing his clerical collar as he always had before, or his golden ring. He appeared thinner than a fortnight ago.

The image was satisfying to Ms Sheedy.

“Did you notice he didn’t have his collar on?” she said.

“He didn’t have those trappings of wealth and prestige. He’s stripped down to looking like Mr George Pell.”