George Pell Sentenced to Six Years" Jail for Sexually Abusing Two Choirboys
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
March 13, 2019
|Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years' jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.|
Pell, 77, was found guilty by a jury last December of sexually abusing the choirboys after a Sunday mass in December 1996 and then assaulting one of them a second time two months later.
The man who was once Australia's most powerful Catholic sat in the dock dressed in a black shirt and a grey blazer, without a clerical collar, as County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd delivered his sentence.
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."
|PHOTO: Cardinal George Pell was found guilty of five counts of child sex abuse in February. (AAP: David Crosling)|
"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.
"I would characterise these abuses and breaches as grave."
Pell will serve a minimum of three years and eight months in jail before he will be eligible for parole.
He continues to deny he sexually abused the boys and has lodged an appeal against his conviction on three grounds, including that the jury verdict was unreasonable.
'Breathtakingly arrogant' offending
Chief Judge Kidd said the power imbalance between the victims and Pell as a senior church official was "stark".
"The brazenness of your conduct is indicative of your sense of authority and power in relation to the victims," he said.
"You may have thought you could control the situation by reason of your authority, as archbishop, whether or not that belief was well-founded.
A colour sketch of a man in a black shirt and brown jacket sitting in the dock of a courtroom.
|PHOTO: George Pell did not wear his clerical collar or ecclesiastical ring as he was sentenced. (ABC News: Fay Plamka)|
"Such a state of mind would have been extraordinarily arrogant, but the offending which the jury has found you have engaged in was in any view breathtakingly arrogant."
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."
The chief judge gave permission for the hearing to be broadcast live by media outlets and the court room was packed with abuse survivors, advocates and journalists.
Several mature women gather around one women holding a mobile phone.
|PHOTO: Members of the public who could not get a seat in the courtroom watched proceedings on the internet. (AAP: Daniel Pockett)|
My son's life was wasted'
Speaking outside the court, the father of Pell's late victim said the sentence was "insufficient".
"It's not going to bring my son back," he said.
"I was hoping for 20 [years] but realistically I thought maybe 10, but hey, he's incarcerated, he can't hurt anybody.
"It does give me some satisfaction to note that he's going to be on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.
He said it gave him a "good feeling" to know that his son's abuser was in jail, but said he found it hard to listen to the chief judge's sentencing remarks.
"I felt like my son's life was wasted. Why was it wasted? For some guy's two minutes of pleasure."
He commended Pell's surviving victim for coming forward and giving evidence against his abuser.
"I want to give him a hug," he said of his son's friend.
In a statement read by his lawyer, Vivian Waller, Pell's surviving victim said he appreciated the court had "acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child".
"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment … the moment when justice is done."
He said it was hard for him to "take comfort" in Pell's sentence, because the moment had been "overshadowed" by Pell's appeal against his conviction.
"I have played my part as best I can," he said.
"I took the difficult step of reporting to police about a high-profile person and I stood up to give my evidence.
"I am waiting for the outcome of the appeal like everybody else," he said.
Judge condemns 'witch-hunt' mentality
In one part of his remarks, which lasted for more than an hour, Chief Judge Kidd condemned a "lynch mob" mentality against Pell and said the sentence should not be taken as a judgement of the Catholic Church.
"It is George Pell who falls to be sentenced," he said.
"We have witnessed outside of this court and within our community examples of a witch-hunt [or] lynch mob mentality in relation to you, Cardinal Pell.
"I utterly condemn such behaviour, that has nothing to do with justice of civilised society. The courts stand as a bulwark against such irresponsible behaviour."
|PHOTO: The sentencing was broadcast live by most television networks. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)|
Chief Judge Kidd also told survivors of child sexual abuse that the sentence "is not and cannot be a vindication of your trauma".
"Cardinal Pell has not been convicted of any wrongs against you. Cardinal Pell does not fall to be punished for any such wrongs," he said.
"I recognise that you seek justice, but it can only be justice if it is done in accordance to law.
"For me to punish Cardinal Pell for the wrongs committed against you would be contrary to the rule of law and it would not be justice at all."
Pell's health taken into account
The chief judge said in determining Pell's sentence he had taken into account Pell's heart problems and high blood pressure, conditions which were likely to be aggravated by stress in prison.
"I will impose a shorter non-parole period than I otherwise would have been inclined to impose in recognition in particular of your age, so as to increase the prospect of you living out the last part of your life in the community," the chief judge said.
He also said he made allowance for Pell's "good character and otherwise blameless life" in the 22 years since his offending.
He said as Pell had maintained his innocence, which was his right, there was no evidence of remorse or contrition on Pell's part to reduce his sentence.
Pell's barrister, Robert Richter QC, had argued at a pre-sentence hearing that Pell's act of sexual penetration on one of the choirboys was a "plain vanilla" case, remarks he later apologised for after a public outcry.
"I reject the submission of your counsel that the offending in the first episode, or the sexual penetration offence, was at, or towards the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness," the chief judge said.
"In my view it does not even approach low-end offending."
Some of the people gathered outside the court shouted at Mr Richter as he left.
As a consequence of his sentence, Pell will be registered for life as a sexual offender.
The chief judge said the cardinal had consented to an application from the prosecution to obtain a forensic sample from him.
|PHOTO: Robert Richter made no comment to the waiting media as he left the court. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)|
Pell's crimes committed at cathedral
The court heard that Pell abused the choirboys, who cannot be identified, after celebrating one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop at St Patrick's Cathedral in East Melbourne.
He caught them drinking altar wine in the priest's sacristy, which was off limits to the choir.
One of the former choirboys gave evidence Pell had planted himself in the doorway and said something like "what are you doing here?" or "you're in trouble".
The then-archbishop moved his robes to expose his penis and forced one of the boys' heads down towards it.
The trial heard one of the choirboys asked: "Can you let us go? We didn't do anything."
But instead Pell moved onto the other choirboy. He pushed the boy's head down to his crotch and orally raped him.
After a few minutes, Pell ordered the boy to remove his pants and then molested him as he masturbated.
Pell abused that boy a second time two months later, after another Sunday mass when he pushed him up against the wall of a corridor in the back of the cathedral and groped him briefly.
|PHOTO: Pell abused the choirboys after celebrating one of his first Sunday masses as archbishop at St Patrick's Cathedral. (ABC News: Danielle Bonica)|
Evidence of the abuse came from that former choirboy alone, who was the victim of two assaults.
The Court of Appeal is expected to hear Pell's appeal over two days in June.