Isolation, strip searches and screams in the night: The life George Pell faces in prison

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  • George Pell
    Australian Catholic cardinal

Cardinal George Pell will trade in his life of luxury at the Vatican for prison jumpsuits, strip searches, isolated cells and the screams of angry prisoners if he is remanded in custody.

Pell, 77, was found guilty by a jury in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy in 1996 and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral in East Melbourne.

The jurors returned a unanimous verdict as part of a retrial following a hung jury in September.

But a suppression order prevented media reporting details of the trial until it was lifted on Tuesday morning.

Pell, who has been on bail throughout the proceedings, may be taken into custody when he returns to the County Court of Victoria on Wednesday.

George Pell’s life behind bars may start on Wednesday if he is denied bail. Source: AAP
George Pell’s life behind bars may start on Wednesday if he is denied bail. Source: AAP

He is listed to make a bail application in the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon.

But if that is denied, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic would be taken to the Melbourne Assessment Centre for processing, where he would get his first taste of life as a prisoner.

As is protocol, Pell would be strip-searched, placed in a jumpsuit and likely held in isolation for up to 23 hours a day for his own safety.

Apart from a brief outdoor session in a small exercise yard with razor wire fences, Pell will spend most of his time in a confined prison cell, where he will be restricted to $140 a month for basic canteen items and monitored phone calls – a far cry from the opulence of the Vatican.

No longer would he be residing amongst the likes of the Pope and other high ranking Catholic officials, instead Pell will find himself under the same roof as recently convicted Bourke Street rampage killer James Gargasoulas.

According to a source close to the Herald Sun, Pell will hear a lot of screaming and shouting throughout the night.

“Considering his life in the Vatican, he’s going to hit the wall pretty hard in here,” the source said.

If he receives any visitors, Pell would be subjected to strip searches before and after each visit.

He will be provided with three meals a day, a rotation of fish, pork and beef.

Pell, who became increasingly frail and had difficulty walking unassisted throughout his trial, is due to face Chief Judge Peter Kidd for a plea hearing on Wednesday morning, where pre-sentencing submissions will be presented by both crown and defence legal teams.

Lawyers for Pell, who maintains his innocence, have lodged an application for leave to appeal the convictions.

Pell’s new accommodation will be a far cry from the opulence of the Vatican. Source: Getty
Pell’s new accommodation will be a far cry from the opulence of the Vatican. Source: Getty

On Tuesday, Pell’s lawyer Robert Richter QC accepted a prison sentence was inevitable, but said he intended to appeal on three grounds, including the jury verdict was unreasonable as it was contrary to the evidence.

The historical offences each carry a maximum 10-year prison sentence.

When the verdict went public in Melbourne on Tuesday, alma mater St Patrick’s College, Ballarat removed his name from a building and Richmond Football Club dropped him as vice-patron.

A petition is demanding his 2005 appointment as a Companion of the Order of Australia be revoked.

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