Cardinal Pell's victim questions six-year jail sentence, fears appeal

Cardinal George Pell

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.

The 77-year-old cardinal appeared drained and slimmer after two weeks in custody as he stepped into the dock for his County Court sentence on Wednesday.

Brian Chery, another victim, said Pell had to pay for his crimes regardless of his age.

The sentence took into account the brazenness of Pell's offending and its lasting impact.

Pell is the most senior Roman Catholic official to be convicted of sexual offences, bringing a rolling abuse scandal that has dogged the church worldwide for three decades to the heart of both the Vatican and Australian civic life.

August - Pope Francis says "we must avoid a media verdict, a verdict based on gossip" when asked about the allegations against Pell.

"Cardinal Pell, I find beyond reasonable doubt that, on the specific facts of your case, there was a clear relationship of trust with the victims, and you breached that trust and abused your position to facilitate this offending", Kidd said.
However, there is no rest for me.

Wearing a black shirt without his usual white clerical collar, Pell sat largely impassively, hands interlaced on his lap, as Judge Kidd graphically described his "brazen and forceful sexual attack on the two victims".

"I am conscious that a term of imprisonment ... carries with it a real, as distinct from theoretical, possibility that you may not live to be released from prison", he said.

"I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child".

One of Pell's victims said it was hard "to take comfort in this outcome" with the cleric's appeal looming. "I would have been happy with one month, one week", one said.

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The father of the deceased victim, who is suing Pell, described the sentence as a "joke" in a statement issued by his lawyers.

Cathy Kezelman, the president of child abuse victims support group Blue Knot Foundation, said while the sentence was "significant", it is not as much as they hoped for.

Pell suffers from hypertension that is exacerbated by stress and has a dual-chamber pacemaker, the judge said.

Cardinal Pell's conviction has met with varied reactions.

When the global wave of abuse allegations reached Pell in June 2017, some of the country's most powerful people stood by him, including former conservative prime minister Tony Abbott, himself a devout Catholic, who told a newspaper "the George Pell I have known is a very fine man indeed".

Pell was found guilty of cornering the two boys, who were aged 13 at the time and on scholarships to the prestigious St Kevin's College, in the sacristy after Sunday mass at St Patrick's Cathedral in December 1996, when he was archbishop of Melbourne.

Julie Cameron, an advocate for victims of child sexual abuse, welcomed the verdict and was overcome with emotion.

That risk may be reduced by time in protection and in time, Pell may be able to mix with a limited number of heavily vetted prisoners, the commissioner noted.

In December, a jury unanimously convicted Pell of one charge of sexually penetrating a child under 16, and four counts of committing an indecent act on a child under 16.

The judge said the assault was committed with "a degree of physical aggression and venom".

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