Cardinal George Pell entered the Victorian County Court on what would be his judgement day looking every bit a broken man.
While he stood tall and proud on entry, his powerful presence had been removed – just like the clerical collar he had worn in public for nearly all of his life.
In the front row of the packed courtroom sat probably his arch nemesis – ABC reporter Louise Milligan.
The reporter had written a damning book about his alleged offending and now sat positioned directly behind Pell’s prosecutor alongside complainants from an abandoned trial.
The hurls of abuse and heckling from Pell’s detractors – present at previous court appearances – was nowhere to be heard in and out of the courtroom on this momentous occasion.
Mighty fall from grace: Disgraced Cardinal George Pell showed glimpses of despair during his sentence
George Pell at an earlier hearing in Melbourne before he was jailed. He tried his best not to show any emotion at his sentence but gave some glimpses into how he was feeling
In the front row of the packed courtroom sat probably his arch nemesis – ABC reporter Louise Milligan (pictured outside court last year)
At a pre-trial hearing, Judge Peter Kidd had warned those who abused Pell’s barrister Robert Richter, QC, that he would jail them if they played up.
It had been a quiet morning outside of court, with only a handful on protesters present along Lonsdale Street.
In the days of his trial, Pell had been shouted at and abused day in and out as he attended court.
Today they were outnumbered massively by reporters, who had come from across the country and the world to watch one of the most powerful men in the Catholic Church be sentenced.
Pell’s defence had protested against a television camera broadcasting the sentence live to the world.
But a cameraman stood in the area usually reserved for a jury to film every word.
The rest of the public was moved onto an adjoining courtroom where they were beamed in the live feed.
When Pell took his seat in the dock, he was surrounded by four burly guards – much like the men who will be his only point of contact over his future years behind bars.
Judgement day: Judge Peter Kidd delivered a damning assessment of the Cardinal’s crimes
Pell’s barrister Robert Richter, QC, spent much of the hearing stroking his beard and staring directly at the bench in front of him
During his pre-sentence hearing, a confident Pell made it his business to eyeball anyone who stared at him – and there were plenty in the courtroom who did.
Pell would not break his gaze.
It was a different George Pell in the dock today.
He sat stony faced.
Those that took only a passing gaze at him might say he showed no emotion at all.
But Pell’s body could not totally hide his inner emotions.
As the sentence kicked off, mention of his power within the church and his seniority caused Pell to rock back in his seat and straighten his slouched shoulders.
He would go onto do this repeatedly throughout the more-than-an-hour long sentence.
Pell’s normally steely eyes also gave him away throughout Judge Kidd’s drawn-out sentence.
The disgraced Cardinal would take long, sustained blinks as Judge Kidd painfully outlined every detail of Pell’s past few years.
The media outrage, his vilification – albeit justifiably now – and the shocking details of the abuse of two choir boys in 1996 he had been found guilty of.
At times it appeared as if Judge Kidd himself was almost sympathetic to Pell – repeatedly mentioning that he had to act on the jury’s verdict.
But Judge’s Kidd’s ultimate sentence looked anything but sympathetic – at least to some of those within the media who had covered the majority of his trials.
Sins of the father: Protesters were out in force at the sentencing of Australia’s most powerful Catholic cleric
Robert Richter barrister for Cardinal George Pell, arrives at the County Court for sentencing
Abuse survivors and campaigners (pictured) arrived at court for the sentencing of disgraced Cardinal George Pell for abusing two teenage boys in 1996
Victims would later complain Pell had ‘got off easy’ and ‘deserved a bigger hit’.
Some had been tearful throughout the sentence – beacons of misery among a bunch of laptop pounding journalists.
In the back row of the courtroom an artist glared at Pell as she no doubt created a masterpiece of him seated in the dock.
Pell cleared his throat after Judge Kidd described his attack on a young choir boy as ‘nasty’.
Mr Richter, who fought so hard to clear Pell, spent much of the hearing stroking his beard and staring directly at the bench in front of him.
As Pell’s mental capacity was aired, the Cardinal removed his glasses and casually scratched his eye with the tip.
He combed his hand through his hair when his breach of trust was mentioned and again cleared his throat when his power at St Patrick’s Cathedral was raised.
When Judge Kidd said Pell would often go in and congratulate the boys after choir, Pell’s lips pursed together even tighter.
Overwhelmed: The jailing of Cardinal George Pell brought forward a flood of emotions for some outside the sentence hearing
It was as if in his mind, this was the only ounce of truth in the entire sentence.
For more than half an hour Pell copped a tirade of Judge Kidd’s accusations and assesment.
But Pell again lifted his shoulders and sat proud when it was suggested he might be at the end of his days.
After 53 minutes, Pell took his first swig of water from a paper cup.
It had been a tiring sentence for all involved.
Pell began to stretch out his dodgy knee and appeared uncomfortable.
Even Judge Kidd stumbled a couple of times and was forced to restart his sentence.
But as the time drew nearer to his ultimate doom, Pell began to become more active.
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
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
WHAT JUDGE PETER KIDD SAID WHEN SENTENCING PELL
- ‘The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending’
- ‘You were confident your victims would not complain. It is fanciful to suggest that you may not have fully appreciated this’
- ‘There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other’
- ‘You had had ample time to reflect upon your previous abuse …. despite this, you still indecently acted against (victim J), and did so with what I consider to be a degree of physical aggression and venom’
- ‘I consider your moral culpability across both episodes to be high’
- There was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending’
- ‘Your obvious status as Archbishop cast a powerful shadow over this offending’
- ‘I would characterise these breaches and abuses as grave’
- ‘You continued to offend with callous indifference to the victim’s distress’
- ‘Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance’
- ‘There is no evidence of your remorse or contrition for me to act upon to reduce your sentence’
- ‘On the one hand I must punish and denounce you for this appalling offending. Yet on the other hand, I am conscious of the heavy reality that I am about to sentence you, a man of advanced years, who has led an otherwise blameless life, to a significant period of imprisonment, which will account for a good portion of the balance of your life’
He adjusted his hair, took another swig of water and cleared his throat.
With a strong right hand, he pulled himself to his feet.
Judgement was delivered.
The once untouchable George Pell – the third most powerful man in the Catholic Church – was handed a maximum sentence of six years, to serve at least three years and eight months in jail.
There was hardly a sound.
Pell signed some paperwork and bowed before being escorted out of court by the armed guards to begin his sentence.
Some in court embraced.
Outside court police were given three cheers by those still milling about.
But the cheers might need to be saved until June, when Pell returns to court to appeal his conviction and now, quite possibly, his sentence.
Pell became the world’s most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sex abuse when he was found guilty in December of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne after a Sunday mass.
The 77-year-old stared directly at Chief Judge Kidd when he imposed the sentence on Wednesday morning which allows Pell to apply for parole after three years and eight months.
In remarks broadcast live around the world from Melbourne County Court, Judge Kidd called Pell’s crimes ‘breathtakingly arrogant’ and said the abuse has caused ‘long-term and serious harm.’
He said Pell’s age and lack of offending for 22 years meant he is not a danger to the community and is not likely to re-offend.
The judge also took into account Pell’s ailing health as he suffers from high blood pressure and congestive heart failure which requires him to have a pacemaker – and said Pell may die in jail.
But because the disgraced cardinal still denies the abuse and is appealing the conviction, Judge Kidd said he had shown ‘no remorse or contrition’ which could have reduced the sentence.
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
Pell, who was until late February the Vatican’s treasurer and once considered a pope in waiting, will be on the sex offenders register for the rest of his life.
Campaigners called the sentence lenient and a ‘disgrace’.
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
– 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
Abuse survivor Michael Advocate said: ‘It doesn’t send any deterrent, it doesn’t give the victims any sense of justice.
Referring to the non-parole period, he added: ‘Jail time of less than four years for destroying the lives of two innocent young boys – is their life only worth two years each?’
Mr Advocate said it gave sex abuse victims comfort to know that Pell will be behind bars tonight and added: ‘May Pell rot in his cell.’
The cardinal wore an open neck black shirt with no collar for the 70-minute sentencing – the first time he has been seen in public without the collar.
At the start of proceedings at 10am, Judge Kidd said Pell’s offending had a ‘profound impact’ on his victims.
But he made clear that Pell would receive the ‘stable hand of justice’ and told him ‘you are not to be made a scapegoat for any failings or perceived failings of the Catholic Church.’
‘Nor are you being sentenced for any failure to prevent or report child sexual abuse by other clergy in the Catholic church,’ the judge added.
Judge Kidd said he accepted Pell’s lawyer’s argument that the abuse ‘involved opportunistic and spontaneous offending, rather than pre-planned or premeditated conduct.’
‘Had it been preplanned or involved grooming, it would have been more serious,’ he said.
Referring to the victims as J and R, he went into graphic details about the oral rape of one of the boys and the abuse of another in two incidents in 1996 and 1997.
The judge said the acts were conducted with ‘physical aggression and venom’ and said ‘it was by no means a minor indecent act.’
Judge Kidd said the boy who was orally raped was ‘struggling and flailing’ during the act.
‘You moved from one victim to the other,’ he said.
Judge Kidd said the first episode in the priest’s sacristy involved a ‘brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims’.
‘The acts were sexually graphic. Both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during this offending,’ Judge Kidd said.
‘The obvious distress and objections of your victims is relevant to my assessment of the impact of your offending on (the victims).
‘There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other.’
The second episode was ‘brief and spontaneous’ but could not be viewed as an ‘isolated lapse’ as Pell had ample time to reflect on his previous abuse of one of the boys, the judge said.
‘Despite this, you still indecently acted against (the boy), and did so with what I consider to be a degree of physical aggression and venom,’ Judge Kidd said.
‘It was by no means a minor indecent act.’
Judge Kidd said by his offending in such a ‘risky and brazen’ manner, it was inferred Pell was prepared to take such risks.
‘I conclude that your decision to offend was a reasoned, albeit perverted, one, and I reach that conclusion to the criminal standard.’
Pell also abused his position by breaching the trust of his victims.
‘I find beyond reasonable doubt that, on the specific facts of your case, there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending,’ the judge said.
Judge Kidd rejected Pell’s defence argument the crimes were committed by Pell the man, not the archbishop.
‘Your obvious status as Archbishop cast a powerful shadow over this offending,’ he said.
‘I would characterise these breaches and abuses as grave.’
Talking about Pell’s role as Archbishop of Melbourne, the judge said: ‘There was breach of trust and you abused your position to facilitate the offending.
‘You were a pillar of St Patrick’s community by virtue of your role as Archbishop. Victim J gave evidence that the choirboys were expected to show reverence in your presence.
‘The evidence shows that you were profoundly revered, Cardinal Pell, which imbued you with and legitimised your authority.
‘As Archbishop, you did have a relationship of approval in relation to the choirboys. In part, the choirboys were performing to please you as Archbishop.
‘There was evidence that you would, from time to time, visit the robing room to congratulate the boys on their singing. The choirboys were the least powerful and the most subordinate individuals at the Cathedral.
‘The victims themselves were 13 years of age. The power imbalance between the victims and all the senior church leaders or officials, yourself included, was stark.’
In summarising his decision to sentence Kidd to six years in jail, he said: ‘On the one hand I must punish and denounce you for this appalling offending. Yet on the other hand, I am conscious of the heavy reality that I am about to sentence you, a man of advanced years, who has led an otherwise blameless life, to a significant period of imprisonment, which will account for a good portion of the balance of your life.’
‘I am conscious that the term of imprisonment, which I am about to impose upon you, carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison.
‘Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you.’
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