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.