Cardinal George Pell sentenced to six years in prison for child sexual assault

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years behind bars for the sexual abuse of two teenage choirboys in the 1990s. Source: Getty and Channel 7

Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years behind bars for the sexual abuse of two teenage choirboys during the 1990s.

The 77-year-old was handed the sentence on Wednesday morning by Chief Judge Peter Kidd for the acts which took place during Pell’s time as Archbishop of Melbourne.

As the world watched on, Kidd convicted and sentenced Pell to a total of six years in prison with a non-parole period of three years and eight months. This included two years and six months in jail for the first charge, four years for the second charge, two years and six months for the third charge, 15 months for the fourth charge and 18 months for the sixth charge.

Prior to the sentencing announcement the judge said he would “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 your living out the last part of your life in the community”.

While Kidd claimed in court the offending was “by no means a minor indecent act” the cardinal has “effectively reformed” and is “not a risk to the community”.

In describing his reasoning behind the sentencing, the judge claimed Pell’s health and age did play a part in what his punishment for the crimes would be.

Kidd said it was a “significant factor” in his sentencing exercise as the cardinal in his late 70s, is entering the last years of his life.

“I am conscious that the term of imprisonment, which I am about to impose upon you, carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison,” he said in court.

“Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you. You are clearly someone with some significant health issues.”

However, he did note that Pell’s case was certainly not a low offending as had been suggested by the cardinal’s counsel.

“Viewed overall, I consider your moral culpability across both episodes to be high. 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,” he said in court.

The announcement follows news last month that Pell had been convicted of five counts of child sex abuse against the two teenage choirboys during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne.

Following the lifting of a gag order, it was revealed that the cardinal had been convicted of the charges on December 11, 2o18 at Melbourne’s county court, after the jury delivered a unanimous verdict. The Australian media had been unable to report on the trial until February as the judge had placed a suppression order on the case.

Pell was found guilty of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, which his lawyer reportedly likened to “oral rape”, and four charges of an indecent act with a child under the age of 16.

The verdict was delivered after a retrial was ordered following an earlier jury’s inability to reach a decision in September, 2018. Following the decision in December, Pell was granted bail to undergo knee surgery in Sydney. He was also removed from Pope Francis’ exclusive group of cardinals known as the Group of Nine, and forced to step down from his position as the Vatican’s Chief Financial Officer.

Graphic details of the assaults were heard in court. In the first instance, Pell reportedly confronted the two boys in the priests’ sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral, undoing his pants and forcing the head of one of the boys close to his genitals. He then moved to the second boy and put his penis in the boy’s mouth.

He was also found guilty of forcing the second boy to lower his pants and sexually assaulting him, and of later masturbating while assaulting the second boy.

The allegations from the second boy, who is now in his 30s, were only reported in 2015 as he was “in shock” following the abuse and feared no one would believe him.

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