Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and eight months for sexually abusing two choir boys.
Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd sentenced Pell in a globally televised judgment on Monday after Australia’s most senior Catholic was found guilty last year of sexually abusing two choir boys at St Patricks Cathedral in 1996 and 1997.
As Judge Kidd read out his sentencing judgment, he began by noting that he was not sentencing Pell for any perceived crimes of the church, or for other matters on which Pell had been criticised. He decried the “lynch-mob behaviour” that had surrounded the case, and said to victims of child abuse generally that the sentence “is not a vindication of your trauma”.
But in later remarks, he denounced Pell’s crimes in severe terms.
“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,” he told the cardinal.
“You had had ample time to reflect upon your previous abuse … despite this, you still indecently acted against (victim J), and did so with what I consider to be a degree of physical aggression and venom.”
The judge said Pell’s offending was “breathtakingly arrogant”.
He will be a registered sex offender for the rest of his life, and will be required to allow police to take DNA samples from him.
Judge Peter Kidd sentencing Cardinal George Pell: All of the offending is made significantly more serious because of the breach of trust and abuse of power. In my view, your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance.MORE: https://t.co/ykweMevBOK #SkyLiveNow pic.twitter.com/6PM98cmp4a
— Sky News Australia (@SkyNewsAust) March 13, 2019
Despite Pell being the highest-ranking member of the Catholic Church to ever be convicted of child sex crimes, many felt indignant at the sentencing.
Dr Vivian Waller, who represented one of the victims, read a statement from her client outside the court after the sentencing.
“Being a witness in a criminal case has not been easy,” the statement said.
“I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together. I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me.”
Dr Viv Waller comes out of the court to applause. She’s the victim’s lawyer. pic.twitter.com/Czb060ovDF
— Melissa Davey (@MelissaLDavey) March 13, 2019
A sexual abuse survivor, Michael Advocate, sat solemnly among the media pack outside the court, listening to the broadcast and shaking his head in disbelief at the judge’s decision.
He said he found no solace in the six-year jail term and felt the punishment did not atone for the perpetual trauma inflicted on his victims.
“When are the courts going to start sentencing appropriately for the devastating damage they cause victims? Every paedophile should get the appropriate jail term reflective of the life time of damage they have caused to the poor innocent victims,” he said.
The Victorian Reason Party MP Fiona Patten, who campaigned for a royal commission into the Catholic Church, said she hoped the verdict would lead to change within the church.
“I think this is a tipping point for the Catholic Church,” she said.
“I would be so disappointed if the Catholic Church did not remove the secrecy of the confession and accept mandatory reporting of child sexual abuse. I also hope this ends the undue influence the Catholic Church has on our legislative system and politicians.”
Ms Patten said she would continue to hold the church to account.
“I am absolutely going to continue to campaign on this. I want to see greater accountability and transparency, and this sentencing and this case only highlights the absolute need for it.”
Cardinal Pell’s appeal against his conviction will be heard in June.