Pell – who appeared in an open black shirt, light tan jacket and a cane – nodded to a friend in court after being brought in by police but then stared straight ahead from the back of the court, showing no real sign of emotion during the sentence. Pell stood as the judge read out the jail term and did not visibly react before being taken away.
Pell’s barrister Robert Richter, QC was mobbed as he left court and said that Pell would face his time in custody “like the man that he is”.
Asked whether there was a witch-hunt Mr Richter said: “No comment – I’ll let you be the judge”.
Justice Kidd began his sentence by warning we have seen “examples of a witch-hunt or lynch mob mentality” outside the court and community and that “I am not sitting in judgment of the Catholic religion or the Catholic Church”.
The judge also warned other victims that “this sentence is not and cannot be a vindication of your trauma”.
“It is not for me to second guess the verdict,” Justice Kidd also emphasised, just after 10am on Wednesday in Melbourne’s County Court.Pell maintains his innocence and is appealing the verdict.
However, the judge then detailed the “brazen and forcible sexual attack” which he ruled involved “physical aggression and venom” and was in “abuse of your power and authority”.
The judge rejected the idea that Pell “must not have been in your right mind” or that “it was a moment of lunacy”.
“The offending which the jury has found you have engaged in, was on any view, breathtakingly arrogant,” the judge ruled.
The judge also warned that the power imbalance between Pell and the choirboys “was stark”.
“As Archbishop, you occupied the most senior leadership, official and religious position at St Patrick’s Cathedral on the days in question … you were a pillar of St Patrick’s community by virtue of your role as Archbishop … the evidence shows that you were profoundly revered … the choir boys were the least powerful and the most subordinate individuals at the Cathedral … you had a degree of confidence that the victims would not complain”.
However, the judge also noted positive character witnesses including from former Prime Minister John Howard, of an “otherwise blameless life” and Pell’s “exceptional career within the Church”.
He said Pell’s 77-year age was also a “significant factor” because “you may not live to be released from prison”.
The judge also accepted that life in prison for Pell would be more onerous than for other prisoners and noted he would be registered for life as a sex offender.
The victim’s statement – who is now in his 30s – was not read out but the judge said he had taken into account the “profound impact” it has had on his life. The second victim – who died of a heroin overdose in 2014 – also must have suffered “an immediate and lasting impact” and his father’s statement was considered.
“Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal”, the living victim said in a statement read by his lawyer after court.
Lawyers for the father of the deceased boy said “our client is disappointed with the short sentencing and has expressed sadness over what he believes is inadequate for the crime.”
Both Prime MInister Scott Morrison and Labor leader Bill Shorten urged support for the victims of child abuse.
“I would just ask Australians today to get around those who have been victims of child sexual abuse,” Mr Morrison said while Mr Shorten said “my thoughts today are with all those Australians for whom this case re-awakens old trauma and all those Australians still mourning someone stolen by the pain of child abuse”.
Melbourne psychotherapist Pauline McKinnon also warned about the impact of the verdict on Australian Catholics, more than 750,000 students in Catholic schools, almost 60,000 teachers as well as government, business and others involved in the Catholic system.
“Many people are enraged at the Church and feeling betrayed. Many feel confusion, sorrow, hurt and anger,” she said.
A crowd of around 150 people packed inside Melbourne’s County Court 3.3 on Wednesday including victim groups and Pell supporters with dozens more media and protesters outside court. The court’s associate warned those in court shortly before the sentence was handed down to listen in complete silence.
Pell was found guilty on December 11last yearon five charges of child sexual offences committed in the 1990s against two 13-year-old choirboys.
Pell was found guilty of orally raping one choirboy and molesting the other in December 1996 and assaulting one of the boys again in February 1997. A jury in an earlier trial was discharged last September when it was unable to reach a verdict.
The guilty verdict sent shockwaves through the public afortnight ago, after it was revealed following the lifting of a suppression order in the case.
The court had issued the suppression order on the trial out of concern that a second trial where Pell was charged with molesting two boys at a Ballarat swimming pool in the 1970s could be prejudiced by a guilty verdict in the first case. But prosecutors dropped the second set of charges a fortnight ago.
Pell, who has been in custody since that time, is the most senior Catholic clergyman to be convicted worldwide for child sex offences and was, until he took leave in 2016 to fight the case, the third-most powerful man in the Vatican and as a Cardinal, Australia’s most senior Catholic.
Pell’s lawyer Paul Galbally maintains his client’s innocence and has lodged an appeal against his conviction, which will be heard on June 5 and 6.