One of the victims of George Pell’s sexual abuse released the following statement after Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced the cardinal.
“It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment, the moment when the sentence is handed down. The moment when justice is done. It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child, however there is no rest for me.
Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.
I am aware of a lot of public comment by people who are critical of my evidence. But only the judge, the jury, Pell and the legal teams have heard my evidence.
Regardless of the outcome of the appeal, a few facts will always remain.
I gave evidence for several days. I was cross-examined by Pell’s defence counsel. A jury has unanimously accepted the truth of my evidence.
Pell chose not to give evidence. The jury did not hear from him. He did not allow himself to be cross-examined.
I have played my part as best I can. I took the difficult step of reporting to police about a high-profile person and I stood up to give my evidence. I’m waiting for the outcome of the appeal like everybody else.
Being a witness in a criminal case has not been easy. I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together. I would like to thank the media for respecting my wish to keep my identity private and keep my loved ones out of the spotlight.”
Prosecutor Mark Gibson SC did not speak to the media as he left court, however he did appear to be happy with the outcome as he brushed away questions.
When the detectives who led the investigation left court they were greeted with the words: “Three cheers for Victoria Police, hip hip hooray.”
Upon delivering his sentence, Chief Judge Kidd asked George Pell to sign the sex offenders register.
Pell did so quietly with the assistance of a clerk.
Tears could be heard in the back row of the court room as Pell’s tally of prison sentences was read out.
Pell bowed to the judge and exited the courtroom at 11.12am.
Chief Judge Kidd said he imposed a shorter non-parole period than otherwise due to Pell’s age in order to “increase prospect of you living out the last part of your life in the community”.
Sentencing Pell is “certainly not simple”, says Chief Judge Kidd, who said he needed to take into consideration just punishment as well as Pell’s personal circumstances and potential life in prison.
George Pell stood with arms behind his back as the judge read out the sentence and did not react.
One of his supporters put a hand to her face and cried when the sentence was read out, while another woman consoled her.
The court room was quiet throughout the hour-long sentence, including as Judge Kidd announced the jail term, and almost everyone in the room turned and watched Pell in the dock.
Pell used his walking stick to leave the dock under the escort of four prison guards. No one said anything and he did not acknowledge anyone.
There was a cheer outside court from abuse survivor advocates as George Pell was sentenced.
But members of the Care Leavers Australasia Network said the jail term was too light.
“He destroyed lives,” said one.
“A small dose of justice (has been served)…At least he’s in jail, at least he didn’t get off.”
Another said: “Australian children are safer today.”
George Pell sentenced to 6 years’ jail for sexually abusing two choirboys
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.
12 March 2019
- Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months
- The chief judge said Pell’s abuse of the two choirboys was “brazen and forcible”
- But he said Pell must not be punished for the suffering of sexual abuse survivors generally
Pell 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.”
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.
Photo: Members of the public who could not get a seat in the courtroom watched proceedings on the internet. (AAP: Daniel Pockett)
Judge condemns ‘witch hunt’ mentality
In one part of his more than 30-minute sentence, Chief Judge Kidd condemned a “lynch mob” mentality against Pell:
In sentencing you today Cardinal Pell, I am not sitting in judgement of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church.
It is George Pell who falls to be sentenced.
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.
To other victims of clerical or institutional sexual abuse, who may be present in court today or watching or listening elsewhere, this sentence is not and cannot be a vindication of your trauma.
Cardinal Pell has not been convicted of any wrongs convicted against you.
Cardinal Pell does not fall to be punished for any such wrongs.
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 will serve a minimum of three years and eight months in jail before he will be eligible for parole.
“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.
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.
Evidence of the abuse came from that former choirboy alone, who was the victim of two assaults.
Pell continues to deny he sexually abused the boys.
He is appealing against his conviction on three grounds including that the jury verdict was unreasonable.
The Court of Appeal will hear the appeal over two days in June.
More to come.