After his conviction for “historical abuse charges,” Cardinal George Pell was sentenced to six years in prison with the possibility of parole.
Last December, Cardinal Pell was convicted by an Australian civil court on five counts of child sex abuse. However, because of a sweeping gag order imposed by the judge, the results of that trial were not widely reported until the media restriction was lifted on the 26th.
The sentence for that conviction was handed down by Chief Judge Peter Kidd in the County Court of Victoria, Australia. Pell faced a maximum of ten years and was sentenced to six years imprisonment, eligible for parole after serving three years and months of his prison term.
Judge Kidd’s remarks recognized the “witch-hunt or lynch mob mentality” surrounding Pell and his trial, but said that “it has nothing to do with justice” in over 70 minutes of remarks that were broadcast on live TV.
Kidd called the prefect emeritus for the Secretariat of the Economy “brazen” and “extraordinarily arrogant” in that “you had a degree of confidence that the victims would not complain.” Kidd said Pell had “effectively reformed” however, and was not a danger to society.
Through the trial, Cardinal Pell maintained his innocence and has been held in the Melbourne Assessment Prison since February 27th, a maximum security prison where he was “kept in protective custody and alone for up to 23 hours a day.”
Pell’s legal team immediately appealed the conviction, and experts believe he has a “high chance” of winning. A “fast-tracked” hearing for his appeal is set to take place later this year from June 6th to June 7th. The appeal document says that
“The verdicts are unreasonable and cannot be supported, having regard to the evidence, because on the whole of the evidence, including unchallenged exculpatory evidence from more than 20 Crown witnesses, it was not open to the jury to be satisfied beyond reasonable doubt on the word of the complainant alone.”
In the wake of Pell’s conviction, Vatican spokesman Alessandro Gisotti said that the Holy See may launch a process against him under Church canon law.
“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will now handle the case following the procedure and within the time established by canonical norm.”