Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Timeline of Cardinal Pell child sex abuse case

Timeline of Cardinal Pell child sex abuse case

Cardinal George Pell was sentenced Wednesday to six years imprisonment, after being convicted in December of sexual abuse of two choirboys in 1996. Pell's legal team has previously announced it will appeal his conviction on three grounds, including that the jury's verdict on all five charges was unreasonable, based on the evidence submitted.

Pell, who has maintained his innocence and plans to appeal, appeared in a Melbourne court after being convicted on five offences including oral rape and molestation of the boys in 1996-1997.

The other victim died in 2014 of a heroin overdose. Reporting of the trial and verdict was suppressed by the court to avoid prejudicing a second trial, which crown prosecutors abandoned in February after the judge ruled some prosecution evidence couldn't be submitted.

Wearing a black shirt without his usual white clerical collar, Pell sat largely impassively, hands interlaced on his lap, as Judge Kidd graphically described his "brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims".

Acknowledging Pell's age and his health issues including cardic problems and hypertension, Justice Kidd said that his sentence "carries with it a. possibility that you may not live to be released from prison".

The judge said that as an archbishop, Cardinal Pell was "profoundly revered" and held up as a pillar of the community.

"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", said Kidd. "Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal", he said in a statement read by his lawyer.

"Cardinal Pell, 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", Kidd said.

"I watched him walking out of that court, and I thought to myself: 'Well, I'm going to sleep in my bed tonight, where are you sleeping?'" he told reporters.

Meanwhile, Richter's arguments at Pell's pre-sentencing hearing two weeks ago to persuade Kidd to give Pell a lenient sentence were blasted in the Catholic Herald at the time as "disastrous". However, there is no rest for me.

"I'm not a fair-weather friend", Abbott said.

The attorney for the dead victim's father, Lisa Flynn, characterized the sentencing of Pell as the beginning of a "battle against the Catholic Church" for sex abuse survivors.

When the global wave of abuse allegations reached Pell in June 2017, some of the country's most powerful people stood by him, including former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, himself a devout Catholic, who told a newspaper "the George Pell I have known is a very fine man indeed". It was the first time a cardinal had been defrocked over the child abuse scandal. And Pell is not expected to return to Rome unless he is successful in overturning his conviction.

Defence barrister Robert Richter said Pell's time behind bars would be onerous, including time in protective custody and up to 23 hour a day lockdown. A former senior adviser to Pope Francis, Pell, 77, was found guilty by a jury in December 2018. "However on the basis of J's account at trial I am able to say your offending must have had an immediate and significant impact on R", Kidd said.

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