Cardinal jailed for child sexual abuse in Australia

Cardinal George Pell has been jailed for six years after being convicted of sexually abusing two boys in Australia

The cardinal, 77, maintains his innocence and has lodged an appealed
The cardinal, 77, maintains his innocence and has lodged an appealed

The former Vatican treasurer is the most senior Catholic figure ever to be found guilty of sexual offences against children.

Pell abused the 13-year-old choir boys in a Melbourne cathedral in 1996; a jury ruled last year.

The cardinal, 77, maintains his innocence and has lodged an appealed.

In sentencing Pell on Wednesday, a judge said the cleric had committed "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the two victims".

"Your conduct was permeated by staggering arrogance," said Judge Peter Kidd.

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.

His conviction has rocked the Catholic Church, where he had been one of the Pope's closest advisers.

Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months. His appeal will be heard in June.

One of Pell's victims said it was hard "to take comfort in this outcome" with the cleric's appeal looming.

Judge Kidd said Pell's crimes were particularly callous because of a "stark" power imbalance.

"You were the archbishop of St Patrick's Cathedral - no less - and you sexually abused two choir boys within that cathedral," he told the County Court of Victoria.

"You even told your victims to be quiet because they were crying."

The judge said he had considered Pell's age and health in determining the sentence. Each of the five charges had carried a maximum 10-year jail term.

Judge Kidd added that Pell should not "be made a scapegoat" for wider failings within the Catholic Church.

He took more than an hour to deliver his remarks. Unusually for local courts, they were broadcast live, in what officials said was a commitment to "open justice".

Pell's surviving victim, who cannot be named welcome the verdict but said it was difficult "to feel the gravity of this moment".

"There is no rest for me. Everything is overshadowed by the forthcoming appeal," he said in a statement read by his lawyer.

The father of the deceased victim said he was disappointed in the sentence, but was glad to see Pell jailed.

"I watched him walking out of that court, and I thought to myself: 'Well, I'm going to sleep in my bed tonight, where are you sleeping?'" he told reporters.

Last month, the Vatican described Pell's conviction as "painful news" that had "shocked many", and confirmed he was prohibited from public ministry. He was removed from the Pope's inner circle in December.

The Church noted, however, that the cleric had a right to "defend himself to the last degree".

The cardinal has also retained the support of some high-profile figures in Australia.

READ MORE: Pope’s close aide guilty of sex assault in Australia

More in World