Cardinal Pell's lawyers to push for home detention after guilty verdict

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Cardinal George Pell’s legal team is set to push for home detention and then appeal his conviction for child sex offences.

However, the presiding judge said only a jail sentence would suit Pell’s crimes.

Pell was convicted on December 11 of abusing two 13-year-old boys but the Australian media were banned from reporting on it due to a court order.

The 77-year-old was silent on his way to court, where he was convicted of abusing two choir boys at Melbourne’s St Patricks Cathedral in 1996.

Cardinal George Pell’s legal team will ask for home detention instead of jail after he was convicted of child sex offences. He’s pictured outside court on Tuesday. Source: AAP
Cardinal George Pell’s legal team will ask for home detention instead of jail after he was convicted of child sex offences. He’s pictured outside court on Tuesday. Source: AAP

After an 11am Sunday mass the boys were through a door into a cathedral backroom known as the sacristy.

The now-34-year-old victim told the court the pair were feeling “mischievous”. The kids found wine in a cupboard before Pell arrived.

The victim told the court Pell was alone in robes.

“There was this moment where we all just sort of froze,” he said.

“And then he undid his trousers or his belt, he started moving underneath his robes.”

Pell pictured at St Mary’s Church in Sydney on Christas Day, 2009. Source: Getty Images
Pell pictured at St Mary’s Church in Sydney on Christas Day, 2009. Source: Getty Images

The victim alleges Pell exposed himself, pushed one of the boys to his knees, grabbed his head and forced oral sex.

The pair pleaded to be let go but Pell touched the other boy’s genitals while he touched himself. The jury heard it was over in under 10 minutes. The boys then dressed and left.

Pell has denied the allegations.

In a statement heard in court, he called the allegations “products of fantasy”.

“I had nothing to do with the choir and I didn’t know any choirboys in ’96,” the statement reads.

Pell’s barrister Robert Richter QC noted the second victim had since died and the evidence was “not supported by a single witness”.

Mr Richter called on former staffers of St Patricks who backed the argument Pell was always escorted throughout the cathedral.

There were claims Pell’s robes were too bulky and tied with a clasp.

“It’s not humanly possible,” the witness said.

But the Crown disputed this and the jury were given an archbishop’s robes.

The court heard of a second incident three months later after a Sydney mass with allegations Pell grabbed one of the boys in a corridor, pushed him against a wall and grabbed his genitals.

The 77-year-old outside Melbourne County Court on February 14. Source: Getty Images
The 77-year-old outside Melbourne County Court on February 14. Source: Getty Images

The victim claims Pell said nothing and walked away.

Mr Richter reminded the jury the Catholic Church wasn’t on trial concerned many might have pre-judged his client.

“I want to ask you something,” he said.

“When you came to take your seats in the jury box and you looked at George Pell, the third most important person in the Vatican, did you say to yourselves, this man is innocent? I bet you didn’t.”

The jury took three and a half days to reach their unanimous decision and Pell was found guilty of all five counts – four of indecent acts with a child under the age of 16 and one sexual penetration of a child under the age of 16.

The court were also showed transcripts of a police interview with Pell in 2016 in which he addressed the allegations.

He called them “completely false” and a “load of garbage”.

He will be sentenced next Wednesday.

The Vatican has released a statement describing Pell’s conviction as ‘painful’ and ‘shocking.’ Source: PA Ready News World
The Vatican has released a statement describing Pell’s conviction as ‘painful’ and ‘shocking.’ Source: PA Ready News World

Vatican releases statement

The Vatican released a statement noting it had the “utmost respect” for the Australian judicial system following the “painful news” that Cardinal Pell had been convicted.

“We reiterate the utmost respect for Australian judicial authorities,” Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said, reading a prepared statement.

“In the name of this respect, we now await the outcome of the appeal process.”

“Cardinal Pell has reaffirmed his innocence and has the right to defend himself to the last degree.,” the Vatican statement added.

“As we await the definitive verdict, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all victims of abuse, reaffirming our commitment to do everything possible so that the Church is a safe home for everyone, especially for children.”

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