Update: George Pell has now had his conviction quashed by the High Court of Australia.
Catholic cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to 6 years in prison for sexually abusing two choirboys at St Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne between 1996 and 1997.
On one count of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, Chief Judge Peter Kidd today sentenced Pell to 4 years in jail. On four counts of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child, he was sentenced to two terms of two years and six months, one term of 15 months, and one term of 18 months.
Portions of each sentence are to be served concurrently with the sentence for sexual penetration, meaning Pell will serve six years in jail. He will have a non-parole period of three years and eight months.
In televised remarks from a packed courtroom at the County Court of Victoria, Kidd said Pell’s first incident of offending against the boys, in which a jury found he forced one of the 13-year-old boys to put their mouth on his penis, constituted a “brazen and forcible sexual attack”.
Kidd said the second act of offending, in which a jury found he groped one of the boys weeks in a corridor of the cathedral weeks after the first attack, was perpetrated with “physical aggression and venom”.
He further ruled Pell’s offences were the actions of a “fully functioning, competent, lucid, and intelligent man,” discounting the defence’s argument that no person in their right mind would commit the abuses he was charged with.
Kidd admonished Pell for exploiting the boys’ trust in him as a church official, saying “the brazenness of your conduct is indicative of your sense of power and authority” over the victims.
However, Kidd remarked that his sentence reflected Pell’s clean criminal record, his advanced age, his health, and the “heavy reality” that he may spend the final days of his life behind bars.
In December, Pell was found guilty on one count of sexually penetrating a child under the age of 16, and on four counts committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child. Each charge came with a maximum applicable penalty of ten years behind bars.
Pell had been remanded at the maximum-security Melbourne Assessment Prison after his conviction was made public last month.
News of his conviction had been under a suppression order, which was lifted when a planned second trial on separate matters was dropped.
Pell maintains his innocence and will appeal the conviction. That hearing is scheduled for June.
Pell, who rose from a priest in regional Victoria to serve as treasurer of the Vatican, is the highest-ranking Catholic worldwide to be convicted of child sex abuse.
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