News National George Pell sentenced to six years in prison for child abuse
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George Pell sentenced to six years in prison for child abuse

George Pell was sentenced to six years jail. Photo: AAP
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George Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic, has been sentenced to six years in jail for sexually abusing two choirboys while he was the Archbishop of Melbourne in the late 1990s.

Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months, with 14 days served on remand taken into account.

Once a trusted advisor to Pope Francis, Pell stared ahead calmly in the dock at the County Court of Victoria as Chief Judge Peter Kidd passed sentence Wednesday morning.

Pell was found guilty in December of five historical child sex offences against two choirboys, then-aged 13 and 12, at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne.

Judge Kidd found that Pell had gravely abused his authority as an Archbishop, saying his offending was “breathtakingly arrogant.”

Describing the first attack, after Pell caught the boys drinking wine after mass Kidd said it was “brazen and forced.”

You were confident your victims would not complain.”

As part of his sentence, Pell was ordered to be registered as a sexual offender for the rest of his life.

The 77-year-old – brought into the dock surrounded by five guards – was without his clerical collar for the first time in 50 years as he heard his sentence.

George Pell was found guilty of five offences. Photo: AAP

Pell, who has spent the last two weeks behind bars on remand, was wearing a black shirt with the top buttons undone, and appeared to have lost weight while in jail.

In the verdict, delivered with cameras allowed in the courtroom and broadcast live around the world, Judge Kidd described Pell’s crime as “callous”.

“Your offending encompassed two distinct episodes over a month apart,” he said.

“In my view, the first episode in the priest’s sacristy involved a brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims,” Judge Kidd added.

“The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending.”

Judge Kidd said there was no evidence of moral contrition from Pell over the abuse.

Child abuse victim advocates listen to the verdict outside the court. Photo: AAP 

After the verdict, a statement from the surviving victim was read by his lawyer Vivian Waller.

“It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment. The moment when sentence is handed down. The moment when justice is done,” the statement said.

“It is hard for me, for the time being, to take comfort in this outcome. I appreciate the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child, however there is no rest for me. Everything is foreshadowed by the forthcoming appeal.

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.”

Dr Waller said her client would be making further comment.

The evidence of Pell’s abuse came from that former choirboy, who was the victim of two assaults. Pell’s other victim died of a heroin overdose in 2014 and never reported his rape.

The court heard that in 1996, Pell caught the pair drinking altar wine in the priest’s sacristy after Sunday mass, before subjecting both to sexual abuse.

A second rape of the witness occurred later the same year.

• Read Lucie Morris-Marr’s compelling account of the Pell trial 

A suppression order on Pell’s trial was issued by the chief judge on June 25, last year to prevent “a real and substantial risk of prejudice to the proper administration of justice”.

He was granted bail after his conviction because he required knee surgery in Sydney.

Pell’s trial has gripped much of the world, and as such, Judge Kidd has made the rare decision to allow a film crew into the court.

“The County Court is committed to the principles of open justice. Chief Judge Peter Kidd’s sentencing remarks in this matter will be broadcast live,” a court spokesperson said in a statement on Monday.

Pell continues to deny any wrongdoing, and the Court of Appeal will consider a legal challenge in June.

If this story has caused you distress, help is available. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.