Cardinal George Pell has been remanded in custody after being found guilty of child sex attacks on two choirboys.
In an extraordinary scene, unprecedented in the history of Australia and the Catholic Church, the 77-year-old was led out of the dock after an explosive pre-sentence hearing.
He was accompanied by three security guards out through a side door of the dock and taken to the cells in the basement of the County Court of Victoria.
The most senior Vatican figure ever to be convicted of a crime will be taken by prison van to Melbourne Assessment Prison in the CBD until his appeal is completed in coming weeks and months.
As Judge Kidd remanded Pell he said that he had already extended his bail on “humanitarian grounds” on conviction in December due to planned knee surgery.
He then told the guards sitting with Pell in the dock; “Take him away.”
As Pell was led out, he paused and turned bowing to the judge, in front of a packed courtroom of over 100 reporters, members of the public and advocates,
Pell, who has already launched an appeal, will be sentenced on March 13. Experts predict he can expect a prison term anywhere between six and 14 years.
He went into custody at 3.10pm after almost an entire day of tense legal argument regarding his sentencing.
The 77-year-old’s barrister Robert Richter clashed with Judge Kidd just 24 hours after news broke of his conviction in December for abusing two 13-year-old’s at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne when he was the city’s Archbishop.
Mr Richter argued that the crimes against the children should be seen at the “low end of offending.”
However his comments seemed to incense the judge who said that the attacks by a man who the boys and their parents should have trusted were “brutal and brazen.”
“And at the time he thought he could get away with it,” Judge Kidd told Mr Richter just 24 hours after he lifted a strict suppression order on the long-running case.
In a bid to help reduce Pell’s future jail term his barrister then presented the judge with ten character witness statements.
They were written by close friends and associates of Pell including former Prime Minister John Howard and Michael Casey, director of the PM Glynn Institute, a public policy institute established by Australian Catholic University.
Mr Richter said the statements were from those who “loved” the Cardinal and that the witnesses were all aware he had been convicted when they were written.
“The statements express his kindness, generosity and above all that of a priest and his private persona which is very different to the public persona,” he said.
A man who has a gravity of passion, a man who has a great sense of humor … a man who can relate to everyone from prime minister to street beggars.
“Those people love him … none of them believe he is capable of this.”
Richter stressed to the judge that Pell had already been through a great deal of “stress” during the case including getting abused by protestors and being judged in the media. He pointed out that prison for Pell will be “onerous” and could be a target from other inmates as a result.
He said Pell had done “enormous good” since the offences occurred, adding that the judge should consider the Cardinal’s age and health problems when deciding the sentence.
When Pell arrived at the hearing just after 9am he was mobbed by media and was screamed at by protestors who shouted insults, making references to Pell being remanded in custody.
“Hope you’ve got your pyjamas,” one man shouted.
Mark Gibson, for the Crown, tendered victim impact statements to the judge. One was from the surviving choirboy, a father aged 34, and the other from the father of the choirboy who passed died of a drug’s overdose in 2014.
Describing Ballarat-born Pell as a “prisoner” for the first time he said he had shown no remorse for the crimes.
“The prisoner has shown no remorse or insight, he’s not taking responsibility for his actions … there remains no explanation for his offending,” Mr Gibson said to the judge.”
When the Cardinal was sat in the dock he frequently closed his eyes, at one point covering his eyes with his hand appearing to be distressed by the legal argument regarding the offences.
Leading victims’ advocates Chrissie Foster and Eileen Piper, who both lost daughters as a result of clergy abuse, sat together in the front row of the court.
Mrs Foster clutched a badge which had a quote from Pell from when he gave evidence to the Royal Commission by video-link from Rome in 2016.
It referred to a controversial comment about the offending of prolific sex predator Father Gerald Ridsdale, who Pell once lived with in Ballarat.
The badge read: “It was sad, but of little interest to me.”
Originally Pell was due to have a bail hearing at the Supreme Court of Appeal.
However during today the Cardinal’s legal team announced in an email he had withdrawn the application but maintains his innocence.
— Lucie Morris-Marr (@luciemorrismarr) February 26, 2019