Cardinal George Pell has withdrawn his application for bail after being found guilty of sexually abusing two teenager choirboys in the 1990s.
Multiple journalists at Wednesday morning’s pre-sentence hearing have reported the 77-year-old will not follow through with his initial plans to apply for bail.
His case had been listed before the court on Wednesday afternoon where Pell was expected to apply for bail before two appeals judges at 2.30pm.
AAP reporter Karen Sweeney updated the public on the decision on Twitter writing: “George Pell has withdrawn his bail application in the Court of Appeal. He will be taken into custody after today’s plea and will spend from tonight behind bars”.
George Pell has withdrawn his bail application in the Court of Appeal. He will be taken into custody after today’s plea and will spend from tonight behind bars.
— Karen Sweeney (@karenlsweeney) February 27, 2019
This followed reports from 10 News First National Affairs Editor Hugh Riminton that Pell’s lawyer had tended 10 character references during the court hearing in the morning, including one from former Australian Prime Minister John Howard.
Taking to Twitter the reporter wrote: “George Pell’s lawyer has tended 10 character references, including one from #JohnHoward, written after being made aware of his conviction. Pell is facing a plea hearing today before sentencing”.
The country was rocked yesterday when the news broke that the senior Catholic Cardinal had been convicted of five counts of child sex abuse against two 13-year-old choirboys during his time as Archbishop of Melbourne.
Following the lifting of a gag order on Tuesday, it was revealed that the 77-year-old 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 Tuesday 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. Pell’s victims were two 13-year-old choirboys, who were abused by the then Archbishop of Melbourne in December 1996 and February 1997 in the city’s St Patrick Cathedral.
According to the Sydney Morning Herald, 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.
A petition has now been created calling for Pell to be stripped of his Companion of the Order of Australia medal. The Cardinal was initially handed this honour for his service to the Catholic church in 2005 by then Prime Minister John Howard.
According to Amy Gray, who began the petition on website change.org, and thousands of other Australians, Pell does not deserve this honour, especially after the conviction of child sex abuse.
“There must come a time when we protect the abused and not the abusers,” she wrote on the website.
“Part of that must be removing abusers’ power and prestige, like removing an honour Pell does not (and arguably never has) deserved.
“Pell does no honour to the people of Australia. It’s time we removed his Companion of the Order of Australia. Let’s stand with survivors of sexual abuse and fight to remove power and accolades from their abusers.”
In a matter of hours the petition had gained thousands of signatures from people across the country with a total of 33,350 at the time of publication.