Cardinal George Pell sent to jail after being convicted of child abuse


The cardinal was found guilty in December of orally raping one choirboy and molesting another in St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne in 1996. Pell maintained his innocence throughout and is to appeal.

The verdict was made public on Tuesday after a suppression order was lifted.

The court heard that Pell will be classified as a serious sex offender once he is sentenced.

On Wednesday, Pell walked into court with the help of a stick. He sat alone during the morning and spent considerable amounts of time with his eyes closed.

He appeared tired and somewhat exasperated and as the legal arguments continued he looked increasingly dejected.

Prosecutor Mark Gibson, SC, called on Pell to be jailed, saying his crimes were serious offending against boys he was ultimately responsible for.

‘‘Given their age and their status it puts them in the position of being vulnerable,’’Mr Gibson said.

Mr Gibson said Pell had never shown any remorse or insight for his crimes, had not taken responsibility or explained them, although he conceded the 77-year-old was at an advanced age and unlikely to commit further crimes.


‘‘This offending warrants immediate imprisonment,’’ he said.

Judge Kidd said public denunciation and deterring others from committing similar crimes would ‘‘loom large’’ in sentencing.

Pell’s prospects for rehabilitation were very good and it was unlikely he would reoffend, the judge said.

Pell’s barrister, Mr Richter, told the court that the cardinal maintains his innocence. But based on the convictions, Mr Richter classified the offending as spur of the moment and not premeditated, and conceded jail was appropriate given the need to deter others.

Mr Richter conceded the crimes involved a violent act, in that Pell grabbed each boy by the head before he sexually assaulted them, despite their protests. There was an abuse of power, the lawyer said, in that Pell was at the time a large, powerful man.

Mr Richter has told the court he disagreed with prosecution submissions that Pell’s crimes were a breach of trust, because it was not the situation that the then archbishop groomed the boys or had an existing relationship with them.

But Judge Kidd said the crimes took place after the boys’ parents had entrusted their sons to the care of the church that day.

‘‘The person who stood at the top of that was your client,’’ he told Mr Richter.

The defence lawyer then submitted the only reason the boys were in the sacristy was because they were being naughty.

But Judge Kidd replied: ‘‘I am not attracted to that submission.’’

Several people in the court murmured in approval of the judge’s response.

Judge Kidd also disagreed with the lawyer’s submission that there was no time for Pell to reflect before he abused the boys.

Pell made a choice, the judge said, ‘‘and continued to make it for five minutes’’.

The judge said he considered the offending as serious.

‘‘I see this as callous, brazen offending. It did involve a breach of trust and a degree of impunity. How else did he think he was going to get away with it?’’ Judge Kidd said.

Mr Richter confirmed on Tuesday his team last week lodged an appeal against last December’s convictions. The Court of Appeal can quash convictions and order the case go back to the County Court for retrial.

If that occurs, it will be up to prosecutors to decide whether to try the case again.

The Court of Appeal can also grant bail to a person while it reviews a legal challenge against conviction.

If you or anyone you know needs support, you can contact the National Sexual Assault, Domestic and Family Violence Counselling Service on 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732), Lifeline 131 114, or beyondblue 1300 224 636.

Adam Cooper joined The Age in 2011 after a decade with AAP, the country’s news service. Email or tweet Adam with your news tips.

Tom Cowie is a journalist at The Age covering general news.

Paul is a reporter for The Age.

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