Australia

'It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment': Pell victim

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The only surviving victim of Cardinal George Pell has said, in a statement, any relief from today's sentencing was overshadowed by the upcoming appeal.

The only living victim of George Pell said on Wednesday that the judge's decision was "meticulous" and "considered" after the disgraced cardinal was sentenced to six years in jail for sexually abusing him and another teenage boy in 1996.

"It is hard for me to allow myself to feel the gravity of this moment. The moment when the sentence is handed down, the moment when justice is done," the victim, who does not wish to be identified, said in a statement read out by his lawyer, Dr Vivian Waller. 

"I appreciate that the court has acknowledged what was inflicted upon me as a child. However, there is no rest for me."

Media statement.
Media statement.
Twitter

He added that the sentencing had been overshadowed by the upcoming appeal, which will be heard in the Court of Appeal in June.

"Regardless of the outcome of the appeal - a few facts will always remain," he said.

"I gave evidence for several days. I was cross-examined by Pell's defence counsel. A jury has unanimously accepted the truth of my evidence. Pell chose not to give evidence. The jury did not hear from him. He did not allow himself to be cross-examined."

Pell was sentenced at Melbourne's county court by Chief Judge Peter Kidd to six years in jail with a non-parole period of three years and eight months for one charge of sexually penetrating a child and four of committing indecent acts with a child. 

Pell, who is the highest-ranking Catholic to be convicted of child sex offences, has continually maintained his innocence. 

Protesters outside the County Court in Melbourne.
Protesters outside the County Court in Melbourne.
AAP


Survivor and member of No More, an organisation that provides free legal advice to abuse survivors, Peter Gogarty said he was "disappointed but not surprised" by the sentence.

"I didn't think that Cardinal Pell would get a particularly long sentence," he said, in an interview with ABC News.

"On the other side of this story, there is a young man, one who lost his life to a drug addiction and another one for whom the torment will never go away."



He added that the sentence would remind survivors of sexual abuse within the Catholic Church that "nobody is beyond the reach of our criminal justice system". 

"It does not matter how powerful or how influential, if there is evidence that you've done something wrong, you will be caught and I think that's a really important message for survivors today."

Child sex assault survivor and campaigner Peter Gogarty.
Child sex assault survivor and campaigner Peter Gogarty.
SBS News

President of the trauma recovery-focused Blue Knot Foundation Dr Cathy Kezelman AM issued a similar statement: “Seeing a senior figure in the Catholic Church, previously one of the Pope’s right hand men, convicted, shows survivors that there is hope, and there can be justice."

"Although this is a significant sentence, it is not as much as what we would’ve hoped," she said. 

“We must remember that victims are sentenced for life. He was not."

Prominent clerical sexual abuse campaigner Chrissie Foster said the sentence was "reasonable". 

"I'm hoping what Judge Kidd did in the courtroom ... was exactly right. I think he was very particular," she said.

Two of Ms Foster’s daughters were repeatedly raped by a priest at their Catholic primary school in suburban Melbourne.

Chrissie Foster
Two of Chrissie Foster’s daughters were raped by a Catholic priest.
SBS News

"It just seems so amazing that it has all gone through and this has been the result."

Outside the court, protesters gathered to demand accountability from the Catholic Church but said "a small dose of justice" had been served. 

Meanwhile, supporters of Pell compared the sentence to the Lindy Chamberlain case.

"I think that things will come out later," one supporter, who said she knew Pell for 30 years when she was a child, said. 

Dr Waller said her client did not wish to make further comment and thanked the media for maintaining his anonymity.  

Those seeking information or support relating to child sexual assault can contact Bravehearts on 1800 272 831 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380. Lifeline is available 24 hours a day on 13 11 14.

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