Published: Fri, March 15, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Top cardinal gets six years jail for ‘appalling’ abuse

Top cardinal gets six years jail for ‘appalling’ abuse

An Australian court sentenced the most senior Catholic cleric convicted of child sexual abuse to six years in prison Wednesday.

The father of one of Pell's victims who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 at the age of 31 paid tribute to his son's childhood friend for speaking out.

"The safety risk towards you - now assessed as "at immediate risk of serious threat" - may be reduced in protection, so that in time you may be able to mix with a limited number of heavily vetted prisoners", he said, quoting a Corrections assistant commissioner.

Cardinal Pell was found guilty of sexually abusing 13-year-old choir boys 22 years ago in the priests' sacristy of St Patrick's Cathedral in Melbourne, where he was archbishop at the time.

Cardinal George Pell must serve a minimum of three years and eight months before he is eligible for parole, according to the judge's order.

March and August - Pell gives evidence on two occasions to an Australian Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sex abuse allegations against the Catholic Church.

A court date has been set for June 5.

George Pell's interactions behind bars will be initially limited but in time he could be reunited with some former religious colleagues who are now among Australia's most notorious sex offenders.

His life behind bars will be more hard with concerns over his safety given his notoriety and high profile, the judge noted.

Justice Kidd said there had been no evidence that Cardinal Pell was impaired in any way during the offences, and that in evidence to the contrary, he had committed the first offences after delivering Sunday solemn mass.

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"Your obvious status as Archbishop cast a powerful shadow over this offending", he said.

Pell has congestive heart failure and hypertension and the sentence reflects a "substantial portion" of his remaining life expectancy, Judge Kidd remarked in front of a packed court gallery and global broadcast audience.

In explaining his sentencing decision, the judge said Pell had led an "otherwise blameless life".

"No comment - you be the judge", Richter replied.

Another conservative former prime minister, John Howard, provided a written character reference for Pell in court after his conviction, saying he had known Pell for 30 years.

Pope Francis last month defrocked the onetime leader of the American church after an internal investigation determined Cardinal Theodore McCarrick sexually molested children and adult men. "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.

Pell was sentenced on the sixth anniversary of the election of Francis, who has revolutionized and revitalized the Catholic Church in some respects.

December 11 - Pell found guilty on all five charges: one of sexual penetration of a child under 16 years and four of indecent acts with a child under 16.

At the time he was charged, Pell, in the words of the Guardian, had been "handpicked to oversee the Vatican's complex finances and root out corruption".

Greg Craven, vice-chancellor of the Australian Catholic University, suggested that the justice process was tainted by media and police forces that had worked "to blacken the name" of Cardinal Pell "before he went to trial". Pell is one of them.

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