One of Cardinal George Pell’s victims, as well as numerous legal practitioners, have responded to yesterday’s sentencing hearing in the County Court of Victoria.
In a hearing that was live-streamed and viewed across the globe, the most senior Catholic to ever be convicted and jailed for child sexual abuse was sentenced to six years’ imprisonment with a non-parole period of three years and eight months by Chief Judge Peter Kidd of the Victorian County Court.
The cardinal will also be registered as a sex offender for life, he said, and will be required to hand over forensic samples in accordance with that registration.
“I find beyond reasonable doubt that there was a breach of trust and [you] have used your position to facilitate this offending.”
The offending, he said, was an “explicit expression of your authority over them”, and characterised the abuse as both “brazen” and “grave”.
“On any view, you seized upon the opportunity... to abuse them. Despite there being no grooming, you had time to reflect on your behaviour as you offended, but you failed to desist.”
In a statement, the surviving victim of the offences for which the cardinal has been convicted and jailed said he did not wish to comment on the nature of the sentence and was mindful that the criminal process has not yet run its course, with an appeal to be held in June.
However, he did say it was hard for him “to feel the gravity of this moment”.
“I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal,” he said via his legal counsel, Waller Legal principal solicitor Dr Vivian Waller.
“I have played my part as best I can. I took the difficult step of reporting to police about a high-profile person and I stood up to give my evidence. I am waiting for the outcome of the appeal like everyone else.”
“Being a witness in a criminal case has not been easy. I’m doing my best to hold myself and my family together. I would like to thank the media for respecting my wish to keep my identity private and to keep my loved ones out of the spotlight.”
Law Institute of Victoria president Stuart Webb tweeted: “The LIV congratulates the [County Court of Victoria] and Chief Judge Kidd on their openness and transparency of live broadcasting the Pell sentencing. This is an important endeavour that truly provides a window on sentencing principles in Victoria.”
That commented was re-tweeted both by the LIV Young Lawyers and the Law Council of Australia.
Marque Lawyers managing partner Michael Bradley tweeted – from his firm’s account – that “Pell’s sentence makes sense to us, assuming his conviction survives appeal. A fairly balanced outcome, although of course there is no punishment sufficient for the sexual assault of a child.”
In a post, the Law Institute of Australia Facebook page wrote that Kidd CJ was a “well-founded and reasoned decision”, but that the non-parole period did not reflect the community’s expectations.
“This may only result in even further pressure on the courts to bridge the gap between the courts’ decisions and the expectations of the community.”
“This will now become a political tool to the detriment of the legal system in general where parliament will involve itself further in sentencing,” it posited.