Disgraced cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years in jail for sexually abusing two teenage boys in 1996.
He sat emotionless and unflinching when the sentence, which allows him to apply for parole in three years and eight months, was handed down on Wednesday.
A jury convicted Pell in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday mass in East Melbourne in 1996, finding him unanimously guilty of five charges.
In sentencing the 77-year-old, County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd said that Pell’s age was a key factor in his decision, detailing his health issues before saying “it’s a real possibility that you may not live to be released from prison.”
He added that given the amount of time that has passed since the offences were committed, Pell has “effectively reformed” and that he “is not a risk to the community”.
Judge Kidd, who handed down his sentence in front of a packed courtroom and a global television audience streaming across the globe, said that the cardinal had committed a “brazen and forceful” sexual assault on his two teenage victims, which had an added level of humiliation as each was abused in front of the other.
He recounted graphic details of the sexual abuse which Pell inflicted upon his victims, describing his behaviour as “breathtakingly arrogant”.
Judge Kidd insisted that Pell is not to be seen as a “scapegoat” for broader wrongdoings of the Catholic Church.
“I am not sitting in judgment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church,” Judge Kidd said.
“Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy in the Catholic church.”
The judge also rejected the defence’s claims that Pell’s offences fell down the lower end of the scale.
“Viewed overall, I consider your moral culpability across both episodes to be high. I reject the submission of your counsel that the offending in the first episode, or the sexual penetration offence was at, or towards, the lower end of the spectrum of seriousness.”
He said that Pell did not seek the victim’s silence because he didn’t feel that he needed to.
Before walking back to the court’s cells, flanked by security, Pell signed paperwork to be registered for life as a sex offender.
— Dean Felton (@DeanFelton7) March 12, 2019
Despite his conviction, Pell denies all allegations of wrongdoing and has launched an appeal to the convictions, to be heard by the Court of Appeal in June.
Pell, who is the highest-ranking Catholic to be convicted of child sexual abuse, has already had a two-week taste of life behind bars after he withdrew his bail application late last month.
The courtroom was packed with abuse survivors who have their own interest in the result, beyond that of Pell’s surviving victim, now aged in his 30s. The other boy died in 2014.
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