Cardinal George Pell arrived in court on March 13 to be sentenced for sexually abusing two teenage boys in 1996. Once one of the Vatican's highest-ranking officials, Cardinal Pell was found guilty of orally raping a 13-year-old choirboy and molesting another at Melbourne's St. Patrick's Cathedral after a Sunday Mass.
Chief Judge Peter Kidd says he has seen examples of a witch-hunt mentality with George Pell. But he noted: "You are entitled to the balanced and steady hand of justice. You are not to be a scapegoat of the Catholic church." Kidd went on to recount what Pell did to the two choirboys in the sacristy of the Cathedral.
Pell has been sentenced to spend at least three years and eight months behind bars for the sexual abuse. The sentence carries a maximum term of six years.
The 77-year-old has also been told he may not live to be released from prison. “I conclude that your decision to offend was a reasoned, albeit perverted one,” Justice Kidd said. “You were confident your victims would not complain.”
“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,” Justice Kidd said. “Facing jail at your age in these circumstances must be an awful state of affairs for you.”
Judge Kidd said Pell did not pose a risk of reoffending because of his age and the fact he had not reoffended in the intervening years.
“I am satisfied that you effectively do not present as a risk of reoffending for a number of reasons,” he said.
“Your advanced years, the fact that you will be older still once released from prison, your otherwise good character, the fact that you have not offended in the 22 or so intervening years.
“Other factors such as your notoriety and sexual offender registration, which I will come to, are also likely to further limit any interaction with children in the future and effectively eliminate any opportunities to offend.”
In his remarks, Justice Kidd also said: “I am not giving a judgment on the Catholic religion or the church. It is George Pell being sentenced.”