Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in jail

13 March, 2019, 15:40 | Author: Trevor Moore
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LIVE: Watch County Court Judge Peter Kidd as he sentences George Pell for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

Chief County Court judge Peter Kidd said in his sentencing that he accepted that prison time will be more onerous for George Pell because of his notoriety and the animosity directed towards him.

It was after Pell left his hometown to become Archbishop of Melbourne in 1996 that he committed offences against two choir boys in the city's St Patrick's Cathedral for which he was found guilty by the 12-person jury.

Kidd is aware he sentenced at "a time where in recent years there has been the exposure of child sexual abuse within institutional settings, including within the Catholic Church".

Pell maintains his innocence and is appealing the verdict.

Pell, who appeared in court without a priest's collar for the first time during the case, showed no emotion during the sentencing hearing that ran for more than one hour.

Judge Kidd addressed the current climate of anger with the Catholic Church at Pell's February hearing when he said, "The Catholic Church is not on trial and I'm not imposing a sentence on the Catholic Church".

The Chief Judge told the 77-year-old cleric he could die behind bars. "Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal", he said in a statement read by his lawyer.

Six years with three year non-parole period.

The boys had "nicked off" from the rest of the choral procession and were taking swigs of sacramental wine before the cardinal found them, opened his robe, exposed his penis and sexually assaulted them.

"I think really, the point is, under the systems that work at the moment and the sentencing of other convicted paedophiles, it's a tough sentence", Neil Mitchell said.

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

Kidd made it clear that Pell's sentence was based exclusively on the crimes he was convicted of by the jury, and that Pell was not to be made a scapegoat for the failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church.

Pell's legal team has previously announced it will appeal his conviction on three grounds, including that the jury's verdict on all five charges was unreasonable, based on the evidence submitted.

"None of it seems to fit the crime", she said.

During his trial, Pell's own lawyer described the burly 1.9 metres tall cardinal as the "Darth Vader" of the Catholic Church.

The cardinal's crimes have drawn widespread condemnation, though he has retained the support of some high-profile figures in Australia.

In the decades since, evidence of widespread abuse has emerged globally.

At a 2002 World Youth Day event in Toronto, Pell made headlines by saying "abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people" since abortion was "always a destruction of human life".

Only the judge was made visible to viewers in the TV broadcast, which was cut immediately after the sentence was delivered.

In February, the Vatican hosted an anti-child abuse conference in which Pope Francis declared an "all-out battle" against the sexual abuse of minors by clergy.

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