Local News

George Pell gets 6 years



Ballarat born Cardinal George Pell, the world's third-highest ranking catholic, has been jailed for 6 years for the rape and sexual assault of two choir boys at St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne during the 1990s.

But the man who has become the most senior catholic official in history to be convicted of child sexual abuse is likely to serve less than four years behind bars after a County Court judge imposed a minimum term of only three years and eight months.

Describing Pell's offending as "brutal" and "brazen," Chief Judge Peter Kidd went through the Cardinal's crimes in brutal detail, detailing his attacks on his young victims in a room at the Melbourne cathedral after Sunday mass during the 1990s.

But he acknowledged that the subsequent death of one of the boys was not related to Pell's offending.

Judge Kidd rejected any inferece that Pell's mental functioning was in any way "impaired or diminished" when he carried out his crimes, adding that there was no evidence other than Pell being a "fully functioning, lucid, intelligent man" when he offended.

“At some point in the episode, you even told your victims to be quite because they were crying,” the judge said.

He said the attacks in the sacristy were opportunistic, sexually graphic and continued despite the boy's pleas and their visible and audible distress.

"There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation" each boy endured, the judge said, because the children were forced to watch each other being abused."

He spoke of Pell's "breathtaking arrogance" in choosing to abuse the boys while the door to the room was open and open to another person walking in at any time.

However he said he was bound to consider the cardinal's good character, and his lack of other offending in the 22 years since the incidents at St Patrick's.

“You are clearly an intelligent and hardworking man ... committed to service ... (with) a deep commitment to social justice issues, and the advancement of education for young people,” he told Pell.

He also gave weight to Pell's age and significant health issues, and the impact they would have on him in prison.

“Facing prison at your age in your circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you.”

He said Pell posed little risk of re-offending because of his advanced years and poor health.

A crowd that had gathered outside the County Court burst ito cheers when Chief Judge Kidd read out the sentence, although many said it was far too light.

Pell will 81 when he becomes eligible for parole in 2022.

He will remain on the national sex offenders register for life.

His lawyers have already lodged an appeal against the guilty verdict.

Pictures: (top) Cardinal George Pell; (middle) Chief Judge Peter Kidd hands down sentence.