George Pell guilty of child abuse and facing long jail time

CARDINAL George Pell has been found guilty of child sex abuse and is facing a significant term of imprisonment following a sensational trial in Melbourne.

The third most powerful man in the Vatican and Australia's most senior Catholic has been found guilty of raping one choirboy and molesting another in Melbourne's St Patrick's Cathedral 22 years ago.

A jury delivered the unanimous verdict on 11 December in Melbourne's county court, but the result was subject to a suppression order and could not be reported until now. It's expected there will be calls for Pell to be defrocked.

Judge Peter Kidd has said Pell will be remanded in custody after a pre-sentence hearing on Wednesday. He is likely to be sentenced in the fortnight after that hearing.

Pell's victims were two 13-year-old boys on scholarships to the prestigious St Kevin's College.

The pair "nicked off" after a Sunday solemn mass in late 1996 and were caught swigging sacramental wine in the priest's sacristy by Pell, newly installed as Archbishop of Melbourne.

Pell scolded them, exposed his penis from beneath the ornate ceremonial robes, and molested them.

A Melbourne jury in December found Pell guilty of five charges - one of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with children. That verdict was made public on Tuesday after months of procedural secrecy, and the abandonment of a second trial over allegations Pell indecently assaulted boys in Ballarat in the 1970s.

Pell has maintained his innocence over all allegations and has lodged an appeal of his conviction.

George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrate Court. Picture: Tony Gough
George Pell arrives at the Melbourne Magistrate Court. Picture: Tony Gough

One of the victims, now in his 30s, brought the allegations to police after years of having struggled to understand what he'd experienced. A month or so after he was raped by Pell he was sexually assaulted again, pushed against a cathedral wall by the now-Cardinal who fondled his genitalia. Pell's other victim died in 2014 in accidental circumstances. Top defence barrister Robert Richter QC represented Pell in the trial, and during an earlier trial in which the jury was discharged after failing to reach a verdict.

Mr Richter failed to convince the latest jury that the cathedral's processes were so seamless that two boys simply could not have "nicked off" unseen. He argued the allegations were a "far-fetched fantasy", that Pell was always accompanied after mass and that the cumbersome robes would have prevented him revealing his genitalia.

"Only a madman would attempt to rape boys in the priest's sacristy immediately after Sunday solemn mass," he told the jury.

Pell, who was physically ailing during the trial and on crutches before a double knee replacement over Christmas, remains on bail.

 

- With AAP

 

More to come.


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