Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican in 2012.
Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican in 2012.

Pell to spend night behind bars, sentence date revealed

GEORGE Pell will spend his first night behind bars after being remanded in custody to face sentencing on five child sex charges next month.  

Pell's bail was revoked during a hearing in the County Court this afternoon.  

He will be sentenced on March 13.   Pell, 77, is facing a significant jail term after being convicted of vile sexual offences against young choirboys while Archbishop of Melbourne.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd blasted Cardinal George Pell's behaviour during today's hearing.

"At the time he thought he was going to get away with it or he wouldn't have done it," Mr Kidd said.

"I see this as callous, brazen ... blatant. He exploited two vulnerable boys.

"There was an element of brutality to this. It was an attack."

In Pell's defence of good character, defence lawyer Robert Richter, QC, submitted 10 references to the judge, including one from former Prime Minister John Howard.

The contents of the references have not been revealed.

Mr Richter said despite public opinion, Cardinal Pell had a "great deal of compassion" and "sense of humour" and was well liked and had lived a life of "very good" service to the community.

Mr Richter said the court needed to divorce itself of any emotion attached to the high-profile case.

"This is a court of law, not a court of morals," he said.

Mr Richter said Pell did not abuse his power as the Archbishop of Melbourne, rather that of a grown adult and a "large man".

He said "this is no more than a plain, vanilla sexual penetration case".

The court heard Pell was in a position of power when he engaged in "humiliating" and "degrading" sex acts against the choirboys.

Pell sat unmoved as Crown Prosecutor Mark Gibson, SC, told a packed courtroom the high-ranking Catholic faced 10 years' jail on each of the five child sex offence charges.

Mr Gibson said the offending was "serious".

"Those acts were humiliating and degrading towards each boy and gave rise to the stress in each boy," he said.

"There has been a breach of trust in this case."

Mr Gibson said Pell was the "driving force" and in charge of his cathedral and he had responsibility for the boys he abused.

"He was in a position of power, power of authority which has been breached," he said.

"There was an unlikelihood of him being questioned given his position of power and authority at that time."

Mr Gibson said Pell had shown no remorse.

"There has been no explanation for this offending," he said.

Pell was taunted as he made his way into court this morning.

He was forced to endure listening to words like "maggot", "you are a paedophile", "go to hell" and "you are filth, the devil, a monster" as he made a snail pace walk into the court.

What was only a walk of about 10 metres, it took Pell more than 90 seconds to reach the doors and away from victims, hecklers and media.

He did not comment as he made his way through the crowd of cameras, flashing lights and microphones.

Most of the protesters outside the court had devastating personal stories that compelled them to attend.

Lalor's Beverly Stirling, 78, came to share her and her husband Alfred's story.

She alleged her husband was assaulted while in a boys' home as a child.

"Things happened to my husband," she said.

"He was put into a boys home and badly abused."

The Vatican has described Cardinal George Pell's convictions as "painful'' and said the Cardinal would continue to be banned from having contact with minors until the conclusion of his appeal.

Pell became the world's most senior Catholic official to be convicted of child sexual abuse after a jury found him guilty of abusing two choirboys at a Melbourne cathedral just months into his appointment as Archbishop in 1996.

In a brief statement issued in Italian and English, the interim director of the Vatican press office Alessandro Gisotti said the Holy See acknowledged the decision of the court.

 

Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican in 2012.
Cardinal George Pell at the Vatican in 2012.

Mr Gisotti described the verdict as "painful news we are well aware has shocked many people, not only in Australia.''

"As we have already confirmed on many other occasions, we repeat that we have maximum respect towards the Australian judicial authorities,'' he said.

He said given that respect, the Vatican would "wait the result of the final verdict, remembering that the Cardinal Pell has repeated his innocence and deserves the right to defend himself.''

 

 

In the meantime, the Vatican said it would join with the Bishops in Australia to pray for "all victims of abuse'' and continue efforts to ensure the church was a safe place for everyone, particularly children and the vulnerable.

Mr Gisotti said in order the ensure the course of justice, Pope Francis had confirmed precautionary measures imposed on Cardinal Pell when he went to Australia to face the charges 18 months ago would be maintained until all legal proceedings were complete.

This includes a continued ban on having any contact with minors, and a ban on public ministering.

Pell has been banned by the Vatican from having contact with minors.
Pell has been banned by the Vatican from having contact with minors.

Chief Judge Peter Kidd has indicated he will remand Pell in custody on Wednesday but with an appeal already lodged, Pell's barrister Robert Richter QC could ask the Court of Appeal for appeal bail.

Meanwhile, the only living survivor of Pell's abuse has called for peace, saying he doesn't want relatives dragged into the scandal.

"Like many survivors, I have experienced shame, loneliness, depression and struggle," the victim said. "Like many survivors, it has taken me years to understand the impact on my life. At some point we realise that we trusted someone who should have feared and we fear those genuine relationships that we should trust."

THE VATICAN'S FULL STATEMENT

"The Holy See is united with what was declared by the President of the Australian Episcopal Conference in taking note of the sentence in the first instance against Cardinal George Pell.

"It is painful news that, we are well aware, has shocked many people, not only in Australia. As already stated on other occasions, we reiterate the utmost respect for the Australian judicial authorities.

"In this respect, we now await the outcome of the appeal process, recalling that Cardinal Pell has reiterated his innocence and has the right to defend himself to the last degree.

"While waiting for the final judgment, we join the Australian bishops in praying for all the victims of abuse, reaffirming our commitment to do everything possible so that the Church is a safe house for everyone, especially for children and the most vulnerable.

"To guarantee the course of justice, the Holy Father confirmed the precautionary measures already in place for Cardinal George Pell since he was sent back to Australia [for the trial].

"Until the definitive verdict, Cardinal Pell is forbidden, as a precautionary measure, from continuing in his ministry and from having contact with minors in any form."



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