Abuse survivors have arrived at court for the sentencing of disgraced cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996.
Once the Vatican’s treasurer and considered a pope in waiting, the 77-year-old is the highest ranked Catholic ever to be found guilty of child sex abuse.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd will sentence Pell at 10am, three months after he was found guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral after a Sunday mass.
George Pell has been told to expect ‘significant’ prison time when he is sentenced on Wednesday. Pictured: Pell at court on February 26 for a pre-sentencing hearing
Abuse survivors have begun arriving at court for the sentencing of disgraced Cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996
In a rare move due to huge public interest in the sentence, the judge will permit a camera in court to broadcast his remarks live around the world.
Campaigner against child sexual abuse, Leonie Sheedy, has arrived at the court and is hoping for justice.
‘I hope that justice prevails and that Mr George Pell is treated like every other pedophile and sex offender in this state and he is incarcerated for a sentence that is appropriate to the crime that he committed,’ Ms Sheedy told 3AW radio.
Pell has been told to expect ‘significant’ prison time when he is sentenced today.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd will hand down his sentence on Wednesday at Melbourne’s County Court.
Convicted: George Pell hobbled into court last month after he was found guilty of molesting two choirboys
Senior crown prosecutor Mark Gibson SC foreshadowed in a pre-sentence hearing that Pell would spend ‘significant time’ in prison, including likely long periods in lockdown because of his high profile.
The courtroom is expected to be packed with abuse survivors including Pell’s surviving victim, now in his 30s.
He was orally raped by Pell in the priest’s sacristy after a Sunday mass in December 1996, forced to watch as Pell molested his 13-year-old friend, and then molested again by Pell a month later.
The other victim died in 2014 after a heroin overdose.
Cathy Kezelman from trauma recovery group Blue Knot Foundation said the sentence represents the personal struggle for justice of many other abuse survivors and the outcome is likely to be emotional and polarising.
This is the sacristy of St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne, as it looks today and shown to the jury, where Cardinal George Pell molested two 13-year-old choirboys in his ceremonial robes
On the other side of the room is a kitchen sink and cabinets next to the altar wine cabinet, a small room with a white door left slightly ajar
For some, any sentence won’t be enough while others, still reeling from the verdict, will likely be outraged, she said.
‘For too long, hermetically sealed systems of power, such as within the Catholic Church, have called the shots, protecting the church, its hierarchy and themselves,’ Dr Kezelman said.
‘Hopefully this sentence can herald fundamental change to the Church and other institutions, starting with accountable, responsible and transparent leadership, hierarchy and culture.’
Pell, 77, was convicted in December of one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child. Each offence carries a 10-year maximum prison sentence.
Pell maintains his innocence and intends to challenge the conviction in the Court of Appeal, which will be heard in June.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd (pictured) will hand down his sentence on Wednesday at Melbourne ‘s County Court
He has already served two weeks behind bars.
The disgraced Cardinal was the Vatican’s financial chief when he was accused of sexually abusing the boys back while he was archbishop of Melbourne.
The victims, both students at St Kevin’s College in Toorak, an inner suburb of Melbourne, were reportedly in the choir at St Patrick’s Cathedral and were abused by Pell inside the church.
The abuse took place after Pell introduced a compensation scheme for clerical sexual abuse victims known in Australia as the ‘Melbourne Response’, which he established in 1996.
Pell’s barrister had argued it would have been impossible for him to abuse the children while wearing the large robes he was dressed in when he committed the vile abuse
The jury of eight men and four women unanimously agreed, after a four-week trial, to convict Pell.
They reached their decision after hearing lengthy testimony from a victim, who described how Pell had exposed himself to them, fondled them and masturbated and forced one boy to perform a sex act on him.
In his closing argument to the jury, prosecutor Mark Gibson called the accuser’s evidence ‘powerful and persuasive’.
‘He was not a person indulging in fantasy or imagining things to the point where he now believed his own imaginative mind, but was simply telling it as it was and is,’ Mr Gibson told the court.
Pell was removed from Pope Francis’s inner circle of nine clergymen, the Council of Cardinals, following last year’s verdict.
Pope Francis (right, with Pell) banned him from saying Mass in public and from going near children until his appeal against the conviction is over
But he remained as the Vatican’s treasurer, having been granted a leave of absence by Pope Francis.
George Pell will spend his first Easter behind bars while awaiting to appeal his conviction. He was found guilty after two trials in Melbourne.
The cardinal was named the Vatican’s Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy in 2014, making him the third highest-ranking cleric in Rome.
Before being called to the Vatican, Pell served as Archbishop of Sydney from 2001 to 2014 and was Archbishop of Melbourne from 1996 to 2001.
He was ordained in 1966 and made a cardinal in 2003.
Victorian police charged Pell with the sexual assault offences in June last year when he was in Rome.
Pell, who was represented by attorney Robert Richter, QC, stated at a press conference at the time he would return to Australia to answer the charges and he was ‘looking forward, finally, to having my day in court’.
‘I’m innocent of those charges,’ he said at the time. ‘They are false.’
Each of the five offences carried a maximum 10 years in jail.
Pell is the highest ranked Catholic to be embroiled in Catholic Church sex abuse scandal.
Allegations of abuse by priests date back to the 1950s but were given media attention in the 1980s in the US and Canada.
In the 1990s allegations were heard in Argentina, Australia and Europe.
In 1995, the Archbishop of Vienna stood down after allegations which had rocked the church. Stories of abuse began to emerge in Ireland in the same decade.
By the early 2000s the Catholic Church sex abuse was a global issue.
FROM ALLEGATIONS TO CONVICTION: A TIMELINE OF THE CARDINAL GEORGE PELL CASE
– Pell appointed Archbishop of Melbourne by Pope John Paul II
– Pell sexually abuses two 13-year-old choirboys after a Sunday solemn mass at St Patrick’s Cathedral
– A second indecent act is committed by Pell against one of the choirboys in a corridor at the Cathedral.
– The Herald Sun reports Pell is being investigated by Victoria Police’s Sano taskforce for ‘multiple offences’ committed while he was a priest in Ballarat and Archbishop of Melbourne
– Pell says the allegations are ‘without foundation and utterly false’ and calls for an inquiry into how the police investigation became public
– Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Graham Ashton asks the anti-corruption watchdog to investigate the leak, but denies it came from police
Cardinal George Pell, 77, is known as the Vatican’s treasurer and had been granted a leave of absence while facing trial over child sex offences in Australia. He has surrendered his passport
– Pell gives evidence to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s inquiry into abuse in Ballarat
– Under Vatican rules, Pell gives Pope Francis his resignation on his 75th birthday, as is customary. It is not accepted
– Victoria Police investigators hand over to the state’s Office of Public Prosecutions a brief of evidence on allegations of sexual abuse by Pell
– Officers travel to Rome to interview Pell over the abuse claims. He voluntarily participates in the interview.
– Police present their final brief of evidence to the Office of Public Prosecutions to consider charges
– Prosecutors give police the green light to charge Pell.
– Pell is charged with multiple counts of historic child sex offences
– He denies the charges and vows to clear his name
– Lawyers for Pell appear in the Melbourne Magistrates Court
– Pell takes leave from his Vatican finance chief role to fight the charges.
– Pell returns to Australia
– He hires top barrister Robert Richter QC
– Supporters set up a fund to help Pell fight the charges.
– Prosecutors drop one of the charges against Pell
– A month-long committal hearing begins to determine if Pell will face trial
– Prosecutors withdraw more charges
– Mr Richter claims police conducted a ‘get Pell operation’ and accuses magistrate Belinda Wallington of bias. She refuses to disqualify herself from the case.
– Magistrate Belinda Wallington orders Pell stand trial on some charges, but throws out others
– Pell formally pleads ‘not guilty’
– Two trials are ordered, separating the 1970s and 1990s allegations
– A Victorian County Court employee is sacked for looking up information on the Pell case.
– The 1990s ‘cathedral trial’ begins in the Victorian County Court in Melbourne
– Pell pleads not guilty again to one charge of sexual penetration of a child under 16 and four of indecent acts with a child, over incidents involving two 13-year-old choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in 1996.
– The jury is discharged, unable to reach a verdict following a week of deliberation. Some jurors weep.
– A retrial begins. The jury aren’t told of the previous hung jury.
– Pell is found guilty on all charges by an unanimous jury
– Mr Richter says Pell will appeal
– Suppression orders prevent Australian media reporting the verdict but it spreads through international media within hours.
– Hearings begin ahead of the second trial. Prosecutors drop another charge
– An appeal is filed against the cathedral trial conviction
– A County Court judge deems vital evidence inadmissible
– Prosecutors withdraw all remaining charges against Pell and drop a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s when he was a parish priest
– Pell is due to be taken into custody on Wednesday February 27 as the plea hearing begins.
– Pell is due to be sentenced by County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd.
Australian Associated Press
REACTION TO CARDINAL GEORGE PELL’S GUILTY VERDICT
- ‘At some point, we realise that we trusted someone we should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust.’ – surviving victim
- ‘This conviction is a reminder to survivors of abuse to feel empowered to tell their stories. Justice has prevailed and the nation is finally listening and addressing your pain.’ – lawyer Lisa Flynn, who represented child sexual assault victims
- ‘I’m utterly devastated about it … There was no one for them at the bar table today.’ – lawyer Ingrid Irwin after a second trial which involved Pell and two of her clients was dropped
- ‘Cardinal George Pell has always maintained his innocence and continues to do so.’ – lawyer representing Pell, Paul Galbally
The two boys were molested in 1996 after a mass Pell conducted at St Patrick’s Cathedral (pictured) in Melbourne
- ‘While acknowledging the judgment of the jury, I join many people who have been surprised and shaken by the outcome of the second trial.’ – Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli
- ‘We pray for all those who have been abused and their loved ones and we commit ourselves anew to doing everything possible to ensure that the Church is a safe place for all, especially the young and the vulnerable.’ – Archbishop Mark Coleridge, President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference
- ‘The institution has been brought to its knees. It has lost its credibility, frankly. It is still struggling to come to terms with that.’ – Francis Sullivan, former boss of the council that co-ordinated the church’s royal commission response
- ‘Catholics today in Victoria, in Australia, vote with your feet. Have some backbone, walk out of the church house. They won’t change.’ – child sexual abuse survivor advocate, Michael
- ‘To date, within the Catholic Church, it has been anything but fair, just, humane or moral.’ – Cathy Kezelman, president of the Blue Knot Foundation for adult survivors of child trauma
- ‘This is is a momentous event, as part of the continuing drama of the Catholic catastrophe.’ – former Catholic priest turned child abuse victims advocate Professor Des Cahill
- ‘Thank you to some of the bravest men in Australia and their families for trusting me.’ – investigative journalist Louise Milligan
- ‘You’re going to burn in hell. Burn in hell, Pell.’ – a bystander as Pell left court
- ‘Cardinal Pell’s behaviours have not met the standards we expect of those we honour as role models for the young men we educate.’ – St Patrick’s College headmaster John Crowley, having removed Pell’s name from a building which had been named in his honour
Pell has always maintained his innocence and has lodged an appeal against his convictions
- ‘Like most Australians, I am deeply shocked at the crimes of which George Pell has been convicted. I respect the fact that this case is under appeal, but it is the victims and their families I am thinking of today, and all who have suffered from sexual abuse by those they should have been able to trust, but couldn’t.’ – Prime Minister Scott Morrison
- ‘My thoughts are with the victims – their pain is a tragedy, their bravery an inspiration. They’ve been betrayed and so have good people of faith across Victoria.’ – Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews
- ‘(I’m) absolutely shocked and disgusted by the details I’ve read today and I think everybody would feel the same. There are no words to describe how horrible those incidents were.’ – NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian
- ‘Finally, the good news is that now George Pell’s decades of predatory behaviour is out there for all to see.’ – Senator Derryn Hinch
- ‘It is truly wonderful to live in a country where no one is above the law, where any person can seek access to justice and to see that justice done.’ – Deputy Labor Leader Tanya Plibersek