George Pell taken into custody for sex crimes

Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Victorian County Court yesterday. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty
Cardinal George Pell arrives at the Victorian County Court yesterday. Photo: Michael Dodge/Getty

UPDATE: GEORGE George Pell has been taken into custody and will spend his first night in a jail cell for sexually abusing two choirboys in a Melbourne cathedral.

Pell was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old boy and molesting another after Sunday mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996.

At the conclusion of a pre-sentence hearing on Wednesday, County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd instructed officers to “take him away, please”.

GEORGE PELL FOUND GUILTY OF CHILD SEX CHARGES

There was silence in the filled courtroom as Pell slowly stood and was handed his walking stick.

Australia’s top-ranking Catholic strode, head down, to the door beyond which he will spend his first night in jail.

The 77-year-old paused at the threshold, turned to Judge Kidd and bowed.

It is expected he will be placed in protective custody and will await a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 13 before seeking bail.

“Cardinal George Pell has not applied for bail today,” lawyer Paul Galbally said in a statement.

“He believes it is appropriate for him to await his sentencing.

“Despite the unprecedented media coverage, Cardinal Pell has always and continues to maintain his innocence.”

A bail application had been listed in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon but was withdrawn.

The physically ailing Pell had previously been on bail throughout the proceedings and underwent double knee surgery in Sydney in December.

His lawyers have lodged an appeal on three grounds, including that the jury verdict was unreasonable.

Robert Richter QC has argued his alleged offending was at the low end of the scale.

“This is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case where a child is not volunteering or actively participating,” he said.

Mr Richter also said a “temporary loss of judgment” could not be ruled out.

But Judge Kidd pushed back, saying Pell had engaged in shocking conduct that allowed no “innocent explanation”.

“At the moment I see this as callous, brazen offending. Blatant,” the judge said.

“It leaves to me only one inference, which is at the time he thought he was going to get away with it.”

Pell’s defence team submitted 10 character references, including from former Australian prime minister John Howard.

“These people love him; none of them believe he is capable of these offences,” Mr Richter said.

Mr Richter said Pell was a man of the “highest character”.

“He relates to everyone from a prime minister to street beggars,” he said.

Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC said Pell’s abuse of two vulnerable boys warranted immediate imprisonment.

“The prisoner has shown no remorse or insight into his offending,” he said.