COUNTY Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd has sentenced CardinalGeorge Pell to six years’ jail for historic sexual abuse charges against two choristers in the 1990s.
Cardinal Pell was given a non-parole period of three years and eight months.
Judge Kidd said he was not casting a sentencing of theCatholic Church nor could Cardinal Pell be made a scapegoat for the “failings or perceived failings” of the Church on matters of child sexual abuse.
Judge Kidd said he arrived at the sentence in no mathematical way, but from weighing up a range of factors, and acted on the verdict reached by the testimony of the victim known as “J”.
The other victim, who is dead, was referred to as “R”.
Aggravating factors towards the sentence included the gravity of the charges, a breach of trust and abuse of institutional power.
Comment on this power imbalance between then Melbourne Archbishop George Pell and the choristers took up a lengthy part of Judge Kidd’s remarks.
Judge Kidd said Cardinal Pell’s approximate statement beginning the first episode of offending (charges one to four), “You’re in trouble”, was evidence of this power.
Judge Kidd said the second episode, charge five, in whichCardinal Pell groped the chorister J in a hallway, demonstrated Cardinal Pell’s position of “absolute dominance” in St Patrick’s Cathedral and his “sustained offending”.
Given his otherwise intelligent mind and the seemingly irrational and brazen nature of the offences – with the door open in the sacristy after Mass – the defence argued he must not have been of sound mind.
Judge Kidd rejected this characterisation, calling it “fanciful” and that the offending was reasoned.
Other factors, such as Judge Kidd’s assessment that there was no reasonable chance of Cardinal Pell reoffending, his otherwise “blameless life”, the delay of 22 years of no reoffending and his good character were also weighed up.
His age, at 77, and health status were also taken into account, as Judge Kidd told Cardinal Pell, “You may not live to be released from jail”.
Cardinal Pell’s “notoriety” and the high-profile nature of the case were significant risks while in prison and would factor into the process.
As Cardinal Pell has maintained his innocence on the charges, he was not afforded leniency by pleading guilty and, for the same reason, he effectively has shown no remorse or contrition for the charges.
On top of the jail time, Cardinal Pell will be listed on the sex offenders’ register.
The sentencing was broadcast live on television.
Cardinal Pell continues to deny the charges and will appeal his convictions in June.